Get To Know: Craig Chandler, Regional Manager - Macquarie Valley
What does your role involve?
I guess you could say anything within the realms of Cotton Australia's massive umbrella that it provides as the peak industry representative to all cotton growers. My area in the Macquarie Valley stretches from Burrendong Dam east of Wellington to west of Warren, covering 168 cotton growers that will this year planted more than 35,000ha of cotton.
I act as a conduit of information to 168 growers within the Macquarie Valley Cotton Grower Association, which could be anything from distribution of emails, news within agriculture or industry policy from various government departments, to field days, industry related issues and anything related to agriculture.
My role also involves strong involvement with the local Cotton Growers Association as CA ‘s industry representative. I sit on the general committee and help with field days or industry specialist field walks & courses, social events, CGA Cotton Grower Awards and the charity golf day.
How and why did you become involved in the Australian cotton industry?
My involvement in the cotton industry goes back to the early 1990’s as a Design Technician with Southern Cross Pumps & Irrigation based here in Dubbo. That incolved a lot of early project development in overhead spray with centre pivots and laterals and drip-irrigated crops throughout the region. Early development in technology and projects that saw a decrease in water usage and water use efficiency to what we see today.
As a Project Manager, I oversaw many projects in the development of cotton and large broadacre cropping from Hillston, Hay and Colleambally to Dubbo and further north to Tamworth and Gunnedah. I was co-founder and director of TEAM Irrigation for 16 years, which was an importer of a range of centre pivot and lateral move irrigators from the USA. TEAM Irrigation was sold to a large agricultural commodities company in March 2018; I concluded my contract with them in November 2019.
Why is the cotton industry important to Australia, and your local community?
The cotton industry is vitally important to not only Australia’s economy, where this year it will contribute $3b+ but to all local communities. It directly or indirectly employs so many people and supports local industry and business through local spending by growers.
Growers spend locally and this cash flow is important to every business throughout the regions. The recent drought highlighted this in 2018-2019 when local growers had reduced cropping and zero income flowing through the local region, and confirmed that many regional centres still have a heavy reliance on agriculture.
What are you most proud of regarding the Australia cotton industry?
It’s continuous state of change; it’s an ever-moving industry that has been through a very tough time and has also not only had to contend with weather and market forces, but it survived and continues to survive the court of public opinion. The industry is not content to rest, but continues to provide answers through research and change to make itself one of the most sustainable agricultural industries with some amazing technology and very resourceful and clever humans in its midst.
What are your future hopes for the Australian cotton industry?
That it continues to provide a strong base for Australian agriculture and can enjoy several good seasons, provide employment and a lifestyle for farming families and the people it supports long into the future.
If you weren’t working in cotton, what job would you be doing?
I was born and raised on a farm near Wellington NSW and I have been very fortunate to be involved with agriculture my whole life.
I still operate small consultancy business as well as working for CA 1-2 days a week, so I am still involved in water and irrigation, but if the wheels fell of tomorrow, my next choice would a be a zookeeper.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I have three beautiful daughters (20, 18 &14), so it is not rugby, cricket, or even fishing. My girls were heavily involved in dance from a young age, so recitals and eisteddfods were my regular spare time thing when they were younger. As a family we enjoy our boat and the girls are all very good wakeboarders, so we spend a lot of time at Burrendong Dam.
Myself, I love motorcycles. I have been around them all my life and have owned multiple bikes from dirt, motorcross, and road bikes to my latest “baby” a 2012 Harley Davidson Fat Boy which I got for Father’s Day 2012. I sold it recently, so I am between bikes at present, but not for long…
What is your ideal holiday destination and why?
I have been very fortunate with my career and have travelled extensively through USA, Canada & NZ mostly through agricultural regions that the tourists would not see.
My ideal holiday is a small village in northern British Columbia, Canada called Klemtu. A very remote former salmon processing area from the early 1950’s and is now a world leading research facility and eco-tourism area that the local indigenous tribes run to observe wildlife in the area, and is home to one of the rarest species of bear in the world a White-Black bear called a “spirit bear” with less than 600 left in the wild.
What is your favourite movie/book?
Favourite Movies: Shawshank Redemption (Morgan Freeman fan)
Favourite Book: Not a huge reader – but I'm currently reading “Endurance” by Toby Price
What three famous people would you invite to a dinner party, and why?
Morgan Freeman (I'm a huge fan)
David Attenborough (I'm also a big fan and love his work)
My beautiful wife