A YOUNG horticulture industry advocate counted himself "very lucky" when he was able to take over his in-laws' vegetable farm when they decided to retire, but he is concerned not all up-and-coming growers will have the same opportunity.
Penfield vegetable grower Daniel Hoffmann was awarded the 2019 Corteva AgriscienceYoung Grower of the Year Award at Hort Connections National Awards for Excellence that were held in Melbourne on June 26.
Mr Hoffmann grows about five hectares of vegetables after his in-laws, Nounh and Lot Por retired about 11 years ago because of health reasons, but they still help on-farm.
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Mr Hoffmann has been advocating on behalf of northern vegetable growers for many years to help growers "stay afloat".
Mr Hoffmann began farming in his early teenage years but he was not a part of a family farming business.
Mr Hoffmann said although he felt honoured to win the Young Grower of the Year Award, it was not about receiving recognition for being a "great farmer".
"There are many amazing young farmers but this award was really about helping to save our local industry," he said.
I do not know how the next generation will stay afloat with the rising costs and lack of return on produce.
"Most growers in the region have a second job because no one can survive on the income brought in from farming out here anymore."
Mr Hoffmann said young growers were losing confidence in the industry, as input costs and water prices were "sky-high".
"I am concerned about our industry - itis impossible for young growers to buy land and run a farm unless they have big money or have inherited it," he said.
"I do not know how the next generation will stay afloat with the rising costs and lack of return on produce."
But, Mr Hoffmann said in recent weeks the future was brighter.
He has been advocating for 100 growers in the region to have access to recycled water from local bores and the Bolivar Wastewater Treatment Plant.
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"SA Water have agreed to extend the water pipe to us so we can have access - when I told my neighbours who are sitting on a $100,000 annual water bill, they cried," Mr Hoffmann said.
"We have been paying $3.60 a kilolitre for mains water and other growers have access to recycled water for 18c/kL,"
Mr Hoffmann also hoped that if growers worked together and shared information, the industry would prosper.
"We have made an unofficial group called Virginia young growers to share information and connect - I think that is the only way we can protect the local industry," he said.
"Farming is not a competitive sport, we must help each other so we can all prosper."
Friend helps Hoffmann build thriving career
IT WAS a childhood best friend that led an award-winning vegetable grower to pursue a career in horticulture and he has not looked back since.
Penfield grower Daniel Hoffmann said his family background was not in horticulture but "I always knew I wanted to be a farmer".
A chance meeting with Kevin Le during primary school sparked Mr Hoffmann's interest in the industry.
"We just clicked and Kev's family were farmers so it all began from there," Mr Hoffmann said.
Someone once told me that farming was a noble profession so we should never forget the respect a farmer deserves.
"My first job was working on his farm and I also worked on some of the first hydroponic farms that were operating," he said.
"I began growing my own crops by the time I was in high school - I just fell in love with farming."
The duo hired glasshouses and grew tomatoes when they were 13 and they have been doing it ever since.
"Throughout every school holidays we never stayed home, we just worked on farms and grew tomatoes," Mr Hoffmann said.
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"I have always had a hunger to build a business and I have always loved the land - so it matched well," he said.
Mr Hoffmann said he owed his farming knowledge to the Le family.
"Their support and wealth of knowledge is the reason I am in farming," he said.
"Someone once told me that farming was a noble profession so we should never forget the respect a farmer deserves - that has stayed with me ever since."
- This story first appeared on the Stock Journal.