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Through the generations

Through the generations

The latest CommBank Agri Insights survey finds that most Australian farmers first learnt the business aspects of farming from their parents.

North Star in New South Wales has been the social hub of a farming community that the Doolin family has been part of since 1924, when Malcolm Doolin’s grandfather RJ Doolin bought the family’s first farm, Myall Downs.

The passing down of farming business know-how from one generation to the next is a recurring theme in the family.

Today, Malcolm and Jennxy Doolin head the family livestock and cropping business from their property Glenhoma, just a few minutes down the road from Myall Downs, where their youngest son Angus lives and farms with his wife Camilla and their children. Their older son, Simon, his wife Sandy, and their three children live a few minutes in the opposite direction at Cleveland, another Doolin property, which they have recently taken over in their own right.

Innovations through generations

Across their properties, the Doolins grow wheat, barley, chickpeas, oats, sorghum and cotton, as well as producing cattle. They’re a welcoming and down to earth family who go quietly about their business of doing things better. Innovation is in the Doolin blood and the business has pioneered a staggering range of products and practices over the almost 100 years it’s been in operation.

“My grandfather brought in the first triticale to Australia in a matchbox,” Malcolm says. Triticale is a wheat-rye cross hybrid, and Australia is now one of the world’s biggest producers of the grain.

“My father and grandfather were always at the front of the field.”

Under Malcolm’s watch, the family was one of the first to introduce no-till farming in their area, and the next generation is already showing the same innovative streak. In the late 90s, Simon introduced controlled traffic farming – where farmers set up permanent wheel tracks in their crops to help manage soil compaction and improve yield – at a time when it was still considered radical by many.

More recently, the Doolins have invested heavily in pivot irrigation systems that allow them greater certainty around production. They’ve also shortened their supply chain and taken control of their marketing, with enough onsite storage for almost their entire crop, and their own fleet of trucks to transport their orders.

While Malcolm has been managing the family business for years, he still looks to his own dad, now aged 92, for advice. Victor Doolin, proud patriarch of the family, lives in his own home at Glenhoma.

“There’s no decision I’d make without asking dad’s opinion,” Malcolm says.

Experience matters

Although the eldest son Simon has struck out on his own, he still works closely with his father and brother and is in no hurry to reinvent the wheel.

“We’ve got a good system that we’ve spent a long time refining so I don’t want to make too many changes,” he says.

“Our business philosophy is to be a leader without going out on a limb or heading into uncharted territory. We keep up with the latest technology to gain efficiencies but our underlying farming system has been developed over many years.”

Angus says he and his brother have a good working relationship with their dad, who is always happy to support them. “Dad’s very positive, which helps keep everything rolling.” 

“It’s good being able to bounce things off each other. As I see it, it’s three minds all working on the same goals.”

See the full Agri Insights report.

Executive General Manager, Regional and Agribusiness Banking

Geoff joined the Commonwealth Bank in 1988 and has had broad experience across Retail, Business and Institutional Banking. Prior to his current role, Geoff spent five years as General Manager of Corporate Financial Services NSW/ACT and three years as the Commonwealth Bank Country head and Head of Institutional Banking New Zealand.