Hamilton farmer Michael Nagorcka says his career in farming and engineering has proved to him that it’s not just what you have got, it’s what you do with what you have.
Mr Nagorcka, the managing director of Hamilton’s Waltanna Farms, told last week’s Sungold Field Days about the evolution of Waltanna Farms to prove the merit of his life truth.
He told the Westpac brunch at the field days the Nagorcka family had been farming in the south-west for five generations but he had worked first as a structural engineer before taking on the position of Waltanna Farms’s managing director in 2000 to develop its value adding sector.
Mr Nagorcka said Waltanna for many years was a mixed enterprise farm producing crops, fine wool and other agricultural products.
But the Nagorckas’ love of innovation and engineering, and their ability to respond well to change, was taking the family in new directions.
Mr Nagorcka’s father, James, was involved in designing and building farm machinery and developed a four-wheel drive tractor that was sold under the Waltanna brand.
It developed a relationship with Ford to sell the tractors and after that relationship finished, James Nagorcka moved into making timber forwarder vehicles for the timber industry.
Cheaper imported vehicles eventually made that market unviable and the Nagorckas again drew upon their ability to respond to change with James Nagorcka inventing a tractor that ran on rubber tracks.
To further develop and market that invention, a new company Waltana Australia was created and a relationship established with global farm machinery manufacturer John Deere that later moved on to buy a manufacturing business in North America.
While the family had success in farm machinery design and manufacture, Michael Nagorcka said the 1295 hectare (3200 acre) Waltanna farm was not being utilised to its full potential and in 1998, parts of it were used to grow organic crops.
Mr Nagorcka said the big returns from the organic crops convinced the family to shift more of its cropping enterprises to organic production.
He said the family also realised that value adding was critical to improving the viability of its farming operations.
It saw many of the crops grown on Waltanna being processed at locations far from the farm and decided to go into processing itself.
Using its technological ingenuity, the family custom built equipment to process and create new products.
Mr Nagorcka said the core of Waltanna Farms’ business was now the production of flaxseed oil, also known as linseed oil, in which it had become an industry leader but it was also prominent in the production of hemp for human consumption.
In flaxseed, which has been used for human consumption for more than 6000 years, it grew both golden and brown flaxseed to produce foods such as flaxseed meal, flaxseed flour and rolled flaxseed as well flaxseed oils for cooking.
“The markets keep growing,” Michael Nagorcka said.
He said Waltanna Farms aimed to produce high quality products to enable it to be a price setter rather than a price taker.
It produced and processed more than 3000 tonnes of seed varieties in 2017.