Next Crop of sugar industry leaders harvested

NEXT CROP: Michael Cavallaro has just completed a program which aims to inspire young future leaders of the sugarcane industry.
Michael Cavallaro has just completed a program which aims to inspire young future leaders of the sugarcane industry.

Bundaberg Region farmer Michael Cavallaro has been recognised as a future leader in the sugarcane industry after graduating from the Next Crop development program.

The program is an investment by Sugar Research Australia (SRA) and features local farmer Michael Cavallaro among the nine selected from across Australia.

Aged 27, Michael has been paving the way to becoming a committed future leader through the many roles he takes on within the industry.

He helps run Racmac Farms in Woongarra and was selected for one of the director positions at Bundaberg Canegrowers Ltd.

Michael is one of the youngest board members the organisation has had in many years.

Next crop participants
Next Crop program: Michael Cavallaro (Bundaberg), Ben Spann (Rocky Point), Aaron Moore (Atherton Tableland), Michael Giudice (Mossman), Chris Lyne (Burdekin), Kevin Stevens (Brisbane), Tony Bartolo (Mackay) and guest speaker Kurt Fearnley. Absent: Rhonda Pirrone (Burdekin) and Leyton Peterson (Hervey Bay).

Next Crop mentors our future leaders in sugarcane

Michael was selected to participate in the professional and personal development program, Next Crop, which works to create a network of confident, committed future leaders for the Australian sugar industry.

“The program went for six months and it featured nine of us young farmers from Hervey Bay to Mossman,” he said.

“It was about getting a group of like-minded people together for camaraderie, leadership, personal development and motivation.”

Michael said the program was vital in keeping the sugarcane industry viable.

“Our industry is at the forefront of challenges and there are not a lot of young people involved,” he said.

“The program was a great opportunity for the group of us to discuss those challenges, which we are all facing no matter where we are from, and to determine ways in which we can try to overcome those hurdles for a more sustainable future.”

Pushing through the barriers

Michael said right now the sugarcane industry was on high alert after receiving news of Sunwater reducing Paradise Dam's water storage level to 42 per cent for safety reasons.

“The Paradise Dam announcement yesterday is one of the biggest challenges we face at the moment,” he said.

“If we don’t get a big wet this season, the dam will really push us to our limits come this time next year.

“Other challenges in the industry include low commodity prices and the impacts other crops have on us.”

While Michael said the challenges were tough, it was also what made his work so rewarding.

“It’s the variety of the work, it’s not monotonous and yes, it is challenging,” he said.

“When you see the harvester come in to harvest your crop, it is so rewarding.

“It’s that great feeling of seeing exactly what you have grown amongst all of those challenges.”

Next Crop program raises our future leaders

Sugar Research Australia chief executive Neil Fisher said developing future industry leadership had been identified as a priority through SRA’s five-year strategic plan and via ongoing engagement between SRA and the industry.

“To continue to grow and prosper, our industry needs to increase our leadership capacity,” he said.

“This is more important than ever as the industry faces headwinds from depressed global sugar prices and other challenges.

He said Next Crop was specific for the Australian sugar industry and had helped emerging leaders build their skills and contribute to future leadership roles, delivering a benefit for the whole industry.

As part of Next Crop, the graduates focused on two project concepts aimed at creating a more positive and sustainable sugarcane industry for everyone.

The projects were presented at the graduation event where guest speaker Paralympic gold medalist Kurt Fearnley spoke about recognising strengths and building on them.