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Life membership for BCG quartet

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After 128 years of service to Australia’s leading farming systems group, Ian and Anne McClelland and John and Robyn Ferrier have been awarded life memberships of Birchip Cropping Group (BCG). 

The life memberships, which were presented at the group’s Trials Review Day, recognised the leadership, vision, passion and hard work each has provided BCG over four decades.

In making the announcement, vice-chairman Greg Kuchel said the Birchip-based leading not-for-profit organisation may never have materialised without the contribution of these community leaders.

“Ian, Anne, John and Robyn’s unwavering passion, dedication and perseverance have helped propel BCG into the renowned science-led organisation it is today,” said Greg. 

“All have helped BCG overcome profound challenges like the millennium drought, expanding local research, development and extension at a time when resources were being pulled from state government bodies.”

The four join just two other life members, David Smith and Rodney Mitchell who were bestowed the honour in 2016.

“Heart and Soul”

David Smith, who served as BCG Board member alongside all four recipients believes each individual emanates the heart and soul of the organisation born from a love of farming and community: “Every person that comes to BCG, they make welcome. Over the years they have hosted hundreds of people in their homes. 

“Ian and Anne are very similar in that they are inquisitive and inclusive, making each person feel equally important. Wherever he goes Ian will ask people ‘and what do you think about that?’. 

“John and Robyn are equally welcoming and thoughtful, ensuring those visiting the organisation or speaking at an event feel comfortable and are made to feel part of the bigger picture. 

“The four did this while continuing to farm, raise families, etc.. Anne worked off farm and Robyn was the Mayor of Buloke Shire. I remember they would come home then host board meetings at their homes, look after those staying with them, go to bed and get up and do it all again, because they could see the value in it.”

“Kingpins”

Rodney Mitchell said it simply: “They were the kingpins right from the very start and stuck with it; sometimes, when it was crucial, they would put BCG before their farm. I remember on the bus trip back from the Hart Field Day where the BCG idea was born. Ian suggested it and the idea didn’t stick straight away. By the time we got off that bus, however, he’d convinced us and it’s that passion from all four individuals that has driven the success of the now 32-year-old organisation.”  

In presenting the award Mr Kuchel thanked each individual for the passion, resourcefulness and grit in seeing the organisation through from inception to 26 staff and 150 plus trials and growing. 

“Those who have known John, Robyn, Ian, and Anne for either the last 30 years or only in recent times, will all understand and know the influence these four have had on the success of BCG, their impact on Australian agriculture and the Birchip community,” he said. 

“I speak on behalf of all BCG members endorsing that you are all very deserving recipients of life membership of this special organisation, the Birchip Cropping Group.”

On accepting the award, all recipients spoke of their love for BCG and the enjoyment they received through their involvement with the organisation as well as witnessing the positive ripple effects it has created in communities across the region and beyond.

“We originally started BCG for our community,” Mr McClelland, OAM, said. “We used to have conversations within the community: ‘will my kids come home?’, ‘will we have shops in town?’. Our communities are at the heart of what we do at BCG and our mission is to help them prosper.” 

The Buloke Times 27 February 2024

This article appeared in The Buloke Times, 27 February 2024.

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