Success stories

The secret to Andrew Fowler's farm business success

Discover how Andrew Fowler’s strategic people and farm management at Chilwell Farms fosters innovation and sustainability.

The secret to Andrew Fowler's farm business success

In the vast landscapes of Esperance, WA, Andrew Fowler has turned a mixed farming operation into a beacon of success through strategic people management. His journey highlights the vital role of people in achieving operational excellence and sustainable growth as well as the importance of community in rural areas.

Development of operations at Chilwell Farms

Initially focusing on wool, they transitioned to cropping in the mid-90s with the adoption of no-till farming which significantly improved their soil management. Today the farm has grown into a massive 50,000 hectares operation employing over 70 people during peak season with grain accounting for a significant portion of production.

With the expansion into cropping, Chilwell Farms has worked hard to achieve the synergies between its livestock and cropping operations. Employing a mixed farming strategy with both livestock (sheep and cattle) and cropping (canola and wheat). This balanced portfolio approach spreads the risk of operations and enables growth in the business.

How to run a successful farm business

For Andrew, what transformed his approach came when he recognised that his most valuable asset wasn’t his tractors or land, but his people. This realisation brought with it efforts to better the experience of people working on the farmland, which included having a handyman painter full time on the books, fixing houses up and continually improving the living areas.

Prioritise employees' work-life balance

Andrew has given careful consideration to ensuring his employees have a good work-life balance. According to Andrew, it is very important to have flexibility and understanding, so that the employees feel empowered to make their family and personal life fit around their work.

Retain good people

The focus on the employee's well-being allows Chilwell Farms to retain good people and also be referred to by others as a good place to work. This is seen in areas such as seasonal workers referring the farm to other like-minded workers. Thanks to this strategy Chilwell Farms has a constant stream of work applications, eliminating one of the major hurdles of farm management before the busy season.

The right job for the right person

On Chilwell, the philosophy is to put the right person in the right job and that there is a job for everyone. Andrew entrusts his operations leadership team with significant responsibilities, he empowers them to take ownership of their roles. This builds their confidence and skills and ensures the farm operates smoothly and efficiently during the busy season.

Community consciousness

Chilwell Farms is not just a business but a vital part of the local community. With money being invested into the community, Condingup is able to have amenities such as school buses which allow families to offer quality education for their children. Such services are vital to attract good workers and keep the community thriving. This is just another way Chilwell Farms is able to attract such a large number of workers.

Continuous learning and professional development

Andrew pursued opportunities to improve his capacity to manage people, such as participating in a Nuffield scholarship. Returning from the scholarship Andrew was able to double the size of the farm and after the initial growth double it twice more.

These experiences enriched his understanding of leadership and equipped him with the tools to professionalise his approach. By continuously learning and adapting, Andrew has ensured that his management practices remain effective and relevant.

What lies ahead for Chilwell

Farmers need to find a balance between keeping things simple, making a profit, and staying competitive. At Chilwell Farms, having a steady, skilled team means they can explore new innovations with every season. One exciting project is using virtual fencing technology which will let them manage grazing more closely, boosting pasture use and improving animal welfare.

Discover more about Andrew Fowler’s approach to farm business management by tuning into episode 36 of the "Boots Off Log On!" podcast here.

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