GROWN from humble beginnings, the Birchip Cropping Group is celebrating 20 years of research on February 9 with a 1920s-themed ball.
Organisers are expecting 200 people to attend the black-tie event at the Birchip Hotel, including founding members of the group, current and former staff, local farmers and business associates.
Former board chairman and founding member Ian McClelland said the organisation had undergone significant growth since the group was formed by about 20 progressive farmers who held regular farm management discussion groups.
They were inspired to begin conducting local research in 1992 after attending a field day in Hart, South Australia.
“There was a lot of work and research being done on herbicides in other states but little being done in Victoria so we tried to replicate some of the stuff Hart did,” Mr McClelland said.
They wanted to create a group to conduct research and demonstrations on local on farmers’ properties to make sure the results were local and presented to farmers quickly and easily, he said.
Their first piece of research tested 126 herbicides on different locally grown crops.
“And it’s just grown from there,” Mr McClelland said.
BCG board chairwoman Caroline Welsh said the group’s growth was astounding.
“It’s amazing to think it started off with 20 farmers who run a lot of the field days and demonstrations themselves, with not much money and facilities.
“Twenty years later we have our own purpose-built building, 20 staff members, a board of 10 people who oversee all of that and we have an annual turnover of nearly $3 million.”
The not-for-profit agricultural research organisation currently has 420 farming business members and holds demonstrations and workshops weekly.
In 2012 alone the BCG managed 5000 research and demonstration plots, investigating a range of issues affecting farmers such as climate change, pest and weed management and economic modelling.
It also conducted a large-scale social research paper with Melbourne University to find out how the millenium drought affected farming families.
Ms Welsh said the BCG’s core values remained the same despite its larger scale.
“It’s our mission to improve the prosperity of farmers and rural communities,” she said.
“I think the good thing about Birchip is we haven’t lost our way.
“We still hold lots of trials and research on farmers’ properties, and run expos, extension and communication events.” Mr McClelland agreed the BCG message was unchanged in 20 years.
“We’ve always wanted to help farmers make better decisions on their farm so they can put back into the community,” he said.
“We provide a platform for researchers and industry to give advice to farmers.”
Ms Welsh said the ball was not about spreading information or research, but purely about having a good time.
“We want it to be a pure celebration,” she said.
“All of our BCG events provide information, but this is to celebrate how BCG has not only improved the prosperity of farmers in the region, but made sure there’s that time for farmers to communicate and develop a social network.”
For tickets call 5492 2787 or email firstname.lastname@example.org