Fast facts

Name: Caitlin Radford

Age: 22

Works: CO Agriculture Pty Ltd

Location: Moriarty, Tasmania

Farms: Mixed cropping, sheep and cattle

How did you first become involved in the vegetable industry?

I was born into a farming family, so naturally became involved by default! Following on from that, I have started my own company along with my partner Owen, CO Agriculture Pty Ltd. Since then, we share farmed with my grandparents for 12 months before taking over the property lease for this financial year.

You are a fifth-generation farmer. Why did you decide to follow in your family’s footsteps and remain in the Radford business?

The north-west coast of Tasmania is truly the most beautiful place on earth. We are so lucky to be able to farm so close to town, it is very well located. I absolutely loved my childhood and that is what I would love my children to have one day. I am following in my family’s footsteps as it is also my passion, and I would like the opportunity to grow the business and then pass that onto the next generation. Any family farm is special in today’s age, and even more so when it is Australian-owned.

What is your role in the business? And what are your responsibilities connected to your role?

After not knowing what to do after Year 12, I had a gap year and worked on the family farm. I then completed my Certificate III in Agriculture as a part-time apprentice on the family farm with Mum and Dad. I share farmed with my grandparents, Reuben and Gladys – five minutes up the road – for 12 months. I have gone on to rent the farm with Owen under CO Agriculture Pty Ltd. Now I am responsible for the whole business, which has been a huge learning curve!

What do you both enjoy most about working in the vegetable industry, and how do you maintain your enthusiasm?

I don’t realise how much I love farming and growing vegetables until I get the opportunity to talk about it. It is the most special thing to be able to share that passion with others and work with your family (even though it can be challenging at times!) I love the fact that I am helping feed our nation and other countries around the world.

"I am following in my family’s footsteps as it is also my passion, and I would like the opportunity to grow the business and then pass that onto the next generation. Any family farm is special in today’s age, and even more so when it is Australian-owned."

Where do you receive your on-farm practice advice and information from?

Mostly from my dad, Shane – I am sure he gets sick of all my phone calls! I am so lucky to have such a great team of people around me: Reuben, my agronomists, field officers, contractors and the like. They all play such an important role to ensure that the farm runs smoothly, and we produce the best crops that we can. I am on a steep learning curve and while not perfect, we have been lucky with a good season thus far.

What new innovations, research and/or practices has your business implemented recently? What are you doing differently to other grower operations?

I wouldn’t say we are doing anything ground-breaking but we are very mindful of our environment and keeping the farm healthy for years to come. Recently Shane started strip-tilling for his beans, which seems to be a success this year. It is a goal of mine to gradually introduce more technology as I can to keep the farm efficient and see what works best for our operations. Through my Diploma, I am also changing some business practices to make it more efficient.

You received the Australian Apprentice of the Year at the National Training Awards in November last year. What did winning this award mean to you?

This award was so huge for me in many ways. It means another step forward for agriculture and the importance of training for young men and women within our industry. It was also announced on National Agriculture Day, so it was even more special!

Has winning the award opened any doors for you? If so, how?

Most definitely. A lot of networking, which I find so important. It has allowed me to talk to high school students, TasTafe students as well as mature aged groups about agriculture, my story and the importance of training.

I will continue to do this for as long as I can to keep agriculture at the forefront and to hopefully get more agriculture training into schools, so the next generations can grow up knowing exactly where their food is coming from and how it got to them.

I was lucky enough to be nominated for the Corteva Young Grower of the Year at Hort Connections, and we travelled to Brisbane in June. Landline also did a small feature on my story earlier in the year as well as local newspapers and radio stations. It has been a whirlwind, but I am so grateful to be able to be an ambassador for our industry as well as for VET training.

What other studies have you undertaken since entering the agriculture industry?

I am now completing a Diploma of Agribusiness Management through TasTafe. I found the Certificate III in Agriculture to be mostly the practical farm-hand side of things, while the Diploma is much more about business and management of the farm, which is perfect for where I am at now. I also completed a Cert IV in Leadership and Management online through Rural Youth Tasmania earlier in the year.

You’re a member of Rural Youth Tasmania. What does this involve, and what activities are undertaken through this program?

Rural Youth Tasmania is for young people between the ages of 15-30 years. It aims to provide opportunities for the personal development of members through social, educational, cultural and agricultural activities. We organise the Agfest Field Days, which are held in May each year. In a normal year, we would have over 60,000 people attend the three days and is solely run by us as volunteers and our awesome ladies in the office. We have moved to a four-day event this year and this will continue into 2022. I am now the Vice Chairman of Agfest for 2022!

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

I would love to be on a farm that I own along with Owen. Hopefully big enough one day to support both of us full-time. I would love to stay in the same area and keep going as a mixed enterprise farm. Possibility of children or getting ready for children too at some stage! Hopefully still riding horses and involved with my community work.

How do you think more young people could be encouraged to study and take up jobs in the vegetable industry?

The biggest thing is making people understand just how large our industry is. There are more jobs than just being a farmer and the supply chain that goes along with it. Working as a lab scientist, in the processing line or as an agronomist are just some examples of how people can get involved.

I think COVID has at least been good for showing people how important our industry is. I see training as an insurance policy in that it can make you more work-ready and can open doors into new careers that you may not have thought possible. Agriculture has a way of making sure you are never bored, and you are forever learning new things.

This grower profile first appeared in the leading magazine for the Australian vegetable industry, Vegetables Australia. If you’d like to subscribe to receive a new edition of Vegetables Australia in your mailbox every three months, use our online subscription form!

Photography credit: Flick + Dave Photography.