New Zealand, Australia

Family ties bind success for Australian potato seed growers

Fred Bensley of Stillbrook Potato and Pastoral Company is one of four certified potato seed growers in Crookwell, New South Wales, Australia.

He is a fourth-generation potato grower and learned on the job from a young age. “I remember the days when Dad used to be ploughing and I’d have my own little toy tractor, dragging the bucket around behind me,” he said.

“It was like playing around in the dirt but I just didn’t realise where it’d all end up one day.” 

Mr Bensley and his wife Nicky work in a partnership with his father and mother, John and Sandra.

The farm produces several certified seed potato varieties: Atlantic, Carisma, Pontiac, Sebago, Snowden and AG90 (Lusa) which are sold around the country, and internationally to Fiji. The mixed-farming operation also has a poll merino stud, prime lambs and cereal crops.

The current demand for certified seed potatoes outstrips the supply; however, there has been a decline of both certified seed and commercial potato growers in Crookwell. 

“People seem to be looking for seed everywhere,” Mr Bensley said.

“We could quite easily grow twice as much, but it comes back to the man hours and reliable staff. I think there is a huge future in agriculture, but it’s important to keep the young people interested in it.

“I was born into the potato industry, which makes it easier. I’ve got children [Chloe (9), Charlotte (7), and Rory (6)] … It’s one of those things: you’re either born into it or you’ve got somebody very close within family ties or friends that get you interested … To start from scratch would be difficult and it’s very hard to bring somebody into it that’s never had anything to do with potato growing.”

Report by Crookwell Gazette, published online here.
Picture: Like father, like son: Fred and Rory Bensley, 6, at Stillbrook. Photo: Aus Veg.

Crookwell is a small town located in the Southern Tablelands of New South Wales, Australia, in the Upper Lachlan Shire. At the 2016 census, Crookwell had a population of 2,641. The town is at a relatively high altitude of 887 metres and there are several snowfalls annually, especially during the winter months. Wikipedia