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AM recipient reflects on career in grains industry

Emma Alsop, June 20, 2022

Bobbie and Lyn Brazil at their Brookstead property in drier times. Photo: UQ

SOUTHERN Queensland mixed farmer, investor and philanthropist, Franklin ‘Lyn’ Brazil, said he never thought of himself as the kind of bloke to become a Member of the Order of Australia (AM).

He received the title as part of the Queen’s Birthday 2022 Honours List last week for his service to medical research and to agriculture.

“It is a great honour, but now I’m going to have to wear a tie,” Mr Brazil said.

“I never saw myself in the mould of whatever an AM is and I never envisaged that I would get one.

“You go and do what you have to do, and this is just something that comes from it.”

Through hard work, good planning and decision-making and rarely turning down an opportunity, Mr Brazil progressed from a small poultry farm on the Queensland-New South Wales border to owning four cropping properties at Brookstead and two cattle operations at Goondiwindi.

He can also boast multiple stock-market investment successes and the creation of the Brazil Family Foundation which contributes to many medical and scientific research organisations.

Self-described as “not the typical farmer”, Mr Brazil said he has always had a passion for agriculture and rural life.

“Farming is a very satisfying occupation because it is full of challenges…challenges to do it better next year, to do as well as your neighbours, and the satisfaction that you believe you can beat the challenge.”

Transition to cropping

While still working in the poultry industry, Mr Brazil diversified by purchasing a cropping property at Brookstead in 1973.

He sold his poultry operations in 1986 to become a full-time broadacre farmer and moved to his current property in 1988.

Mr Brazil said in those days, cotton was not as dominant as it is today in large parts of the eastern Darling and Southern Downs.

He said soybeans were “the greatest thing coming” and more widely planted.

“In the 1970s, everything was predominantly dryland; some irrigation, but not much.

“Cotton was a very minor crop and generally scorned because it was not easy from all the insecticides.

“We developed through different equipment to better handle planting conditions, making cotton more popular.”

Mr Brazil said since this move into cropping, he fell into roles within grains and irrigation industry organisations, including the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), Queensland Farmers Federation, Queensland Irrigators Council and the Grains and Cropping Research Development Trust.

“One thing leads to another, and if you are around, people tend to ask you to become involved with things.”

His time on the GRDC Northern Panel, then known as the Queensland panel, introduced Mr Brazil to a wide range of new technology and research.

He said the improvements with DNA testing and genetically modified plants to breed new and disease-resistant varieties, like Bt cotton, propelled the industry forward.

“As part of the [GRDC] panel, we used to fund all those projects; when we had the annual funding meeting, you’d bring a suitcase along with all the projects and we’d have 50 or so projects to evaluate.

“It would be a full range from plant breeding, legume research, and pastures.”

Alongside Mr Brazil during his grains industry work was his wife Bobbie – herself an Order of the Order of Australia (AO) medal recipient – who often took a leading or participant role in several of these organisations.

In addition to serving as the University of Southern Queensland Chancellor from 2006 to 2014, Mrs Brazil was the chair of the Australian Landcare Council, and a director of the Condamine Catchment Management Association.

Bright future for grains

Across his decades of farming and investment experience, Mr Brazil can see the grains industry retaining its role as a major part of Australia’s economy.

“People have got to eat, and we have the land.

“You could think that we could grow everything in a factory, but you still have to put input in and the cheapest inputs we have are the sun and rain.

“We have got to be able to capitalise on them; it is all about utilising those natural resources and making the most of the landscape you have got.”

He said farming success has always come down to managing risks with returns, with no element posing a bigger threat to agriculture than the weather.

“Everything in life is about risk management: identify your risks, working out what you can do about it, and do you fight or do you run.

“The weather has always dominated what happens, whether that be drought or floods.

“You have to have a system or a structure so that you can cope with the weather.”

While the weather, and other factors like market movements and labour shortages, will constantly hit the profit margins of growers, Mr Brazil said Australians should not underestimate the resilience and entrepreneurial spirit of farmers.

“There will be people who will find opportunities, and they need to have the ability to go and do it.

“Everywhere there are people who jump out of their stride and do something more; like think that Pacific Seeds started with one farmer who grew a few sunflowers at Biloela.”

Plant-protein opportunities

Being somewhat a traditionalist has not stopped Mr Brazil from seeing a future in developments made in plant-protein products.

He believes plant-proteins are not a threat to the meat industry and may offer more value for pulse growers.

“There is plenty of scope for the grain industry and for someone in the grain industry to develop new products.

‘No one drinks only XXXX beer anymore’

“The big future in pulse foods…will be coming into a wider range of foods and ways to use it, because everyone wants variation; no one drinks only XXXX beer anymore.

“The meat made from pulses, plant-based meat, there will be a future in that.”

Mr Brazil said in his view these sorts of developments should be the focus of manufacturers, researchers and food technologists, leaving farmers to make their own on-farm decisions.

“Farmers should always have the right to farm and be profitable, and the rest should be cream on the cake.”

 

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Comments

  1. Brad Pfeffer, June 20, 2022

    Congratulations Lyn. Well deserved.
    Also congratulations to Emma Alsop on such a well-written article.

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