When Matthew Gay started farming with his father in 1980, the best place to find out what was happening in the industry was over a quiet beer on a Friday night.

Fast forward almost 40 years and the (now former) President of the Crookwell Potato Growers’ Association in New South Wales is thankful for the advances made in industry communications.

“Years ago, we might have had a field day or met up at the pub to have a chat about what was going on and that was how we learnt,” Matthew says.

“But now, if my son Chris asks me a question, I can straight away research it on the internet. I can give him an initial answer and then get a more definitive answer online. In many ways, you have now got a backup program for your learning and teaching. It’s no longer second-hand, over-the-fence learning but so much more professional.”

Matthew and Chris Gay.

Instant results

Nowadays, the information available is comprehensive: a Weekly Update e-newsletter, the Potatoes Australia magazine which is also available online, InfoVeg (online database and video), social media posts on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram, and Potato Grower Success Stories.

These services were part of the project Potato Industry Communications Program 2016-19 (PT15007), which was a strategic levy investment under the Hort Innovation Fresh Potato Fund. The project was coordinated by AUSVEG.

“With all the communication channels and updates we’re now lucky to have, it’s hard to single one out (as the most valuable) because they all have their place,” Matthew says.

For example, the tomato-potato psyllid (TPP) information published in Potatoes Australia after its outbreak in New Zealand in 2006 and Western Australia in 2017 was invaluable.

“At the time of the outbreak I didn’t know exactly what tomato potato psyllid was and first and foremost it identified the psyllid, what it looks like and its colours. Through Potatoes Australia and research, it’s also given us an outline of control methods.”

Vital information

Among other things, Matthew’s farm benefited from communication materials within the project that provided certification system updates, pest and disease projects and their outcomes, as well as information about new strains and varieties.

He has even played his part in sharing the knowledge, featuring in the December 2016/January 2017 edition of Potatoes Australia to discuss Crookwell’s nationally endorsed quality assurance program.

“There are many positive farm outcomes because Potatoes Australia covers every aspect of our industry – certification, mini-tuber production, pest and diseases, soil analysis, not to mention grower profiles – it’s a total coverage. To keep up, we need these tools. It’s not only important but necessary,” Matthew says.

Collaboration kudos

The regular influx of information has kept curiosity high in Matthew’s household, which is important now that Chris has joined his father on the farm.

“The transfer of knowledge between generations is critical. You can’t beat experience and the enthusiasm of youth to keep driving forward. If you can work together and communicate well, both generations are learning. There’s nothing like a fresh set of eyes saying, ‘Can we try it this way?’,” Matthew says.

“Thankfully, a lot has changed over the years. There is always something new or a better way of doing things. It’s difficult to network, so it’s great to be able to sit down anytime in the day or night and access relevant and accurate information. This is probably our best tool on the farm.

“As he’s just starting out, I’ll be encouraging Chris to read as much as he can. It will be in his best interests.”


  • The Potato Industry Communications Program 2016-19 increased grower awareness of strategic levy investments in the potato industry through materials such as Potatoes Australia, the Weekly Update e-newsletter, InfoVeg services and social media.
  • Former Crookwell Potato Growers’ Association President Matthew Gay says the regular communication updates – across print, digital and social media – has helped both himself and his son Chris, among many others, stay up-to-date with tomato-potato psyllid (TPP) and various farming practices to assist the certified seed potato industry.
  • Project PT15007 was funded by Hort Innovation using the fresh potato research and development levy and contributions from the Australian Government.
Matthew Gay and his son Chris.

This article first appeared in the 2017 Grower Success Stories: Real results from the potato R&D levy.