Home' Smart Farmer : Dec 2014 - Jan 2015 Contents Eventers shine through testing times
By JULIE PAUL
IT WAS the best of times, it was the
worst of times.
Adelaide's weather went from a
scorcher on day one to a downpour on
day four, but the top quality riders and
horses continued on to battle it out for
honours in the Australian International
Three Day Event held in the beautiful
parklands in November.
A thrilling finish in the two-star
class saw Christine Bates on Kung Fu
Panda GP just miss out after leading
from day one, with two fences down
in the showjumping, dropping them to
second place behind Kirsty Douglas on
Only 0.2 of a point behind them in
third place was SA's Megan Jones on
Kirby Park Invader.
The four-star finish was just as
thrilling, only the fences stayed up this
time for leader and subsequent winner
Jessica Manson on Legal Star, as they
did for Megan Jones and Kirby Park
Allofasudden, taking second place for
the third frustrating time.
Third placing went to Soigne Jackson
A well-deserved lap of honour for
Kirsty Douglas, Qld, and Cushavon
Crackerjack after taking out the two-
star class with a faultless jumping
performance to finish the event on
their dressage score.
Megan Jones, Hahndorf, and Kirby
Park Allofasudden show superb style
in the extended trot during their
four-star dressage test. They were
clear leaders after the first phase.
Completing a faultless showjumping
round to take out the prestigious
four-star event, Western Australian
visitors Jessica Manson and Legal
Rymill Park with its lake and
jacaranda trees provides the
perfect setting as Anthony Thomas,
Maitland, takes Southern Warlock
through the water complex.
SmartFarmer • December 2014/January 2015
By MAX OPRAY
WHEN Michael Davey
joined the Balhannah
co-op four years ago as
general manager, the situation was
not looking good.
Storage demand had slowly
withered away as local producers,
growers and traditional businesses
left the area.
Chapman's at Nairne closed,
National Foods sold its facilities in
Murray Bridge and consolidated
cheese production in Tas, and Huon
did the same.
Apple and pear grower numbers
also dropped off considerably.
The co-op's storage facilities were
underutilised and expensive to
maintain, and larger Adelaide-based
facilities were difficult to compete
with, given shrinking local demand.
The choice facing Balhannah was
to change or die, so the remaining
apple growers and management
chose to adapt.
In 2012, the co-op became a com-
pany: Balcos Pty Ltd.
Mr Davey said they made the
change to allow the site to diversify.
"We were changing from growers
of fruit to broader retail, so it made
sense to turn into a company - we
kept the same grower-owners, the
difference was the co-op framework
and rules didn't apply anymore,"
The change paved the way for an
ambitious revamp of the co-op site, a
multi-million dollar project that will
be completed in February next year.
The old co-op buildings were
renovated to cater for incoming
retailers, such as Living By Design,
Balhannah Kitchens, the Balhannah
Post office and a cafe.
The on-site Mitre 10 store, for-
merly owned by the co-op, was
sold to Simon and Jodie Henderson,
Hahndorf, to help fund the revamp,
and the selling of eight premium
residential developments will also
contribute finance to the project.
The centrepiece of the Balhannah
Village project is a large building
being constructed from scratch, with
council approval being sought for a
medium-sized supermarket of 1350
In addition, there will be parking
for more than 150 vehicles.
The incoming wave of retail will
not completely take space away
from the site's original function,
with modern upgraded cold storage
available on a smaller scale, more
appropriate for the needs of local
Balcos deputy chairman John
Vickers, who grows apple and pears
on 30 hectares at Lenswood, is sure
the site "would have died a slow
death" if they had they not embarked
on the revamp.
He said the project had support
from all the growers, and that even
with the reduced cold storage space,
there would be enough for everyone
-- and more to let out to growers in
He said the old facility was blighted
with problems such as asbestos roof-
ing and white ants but said much of
the old structures would be retained.
"Some of the old cold storage
rooms will be used as shopfloors,
and one of the shops will have an
old-style interior to match, using
the existing cold storage walls," Mr
"The business has been there a
very long time and gone through a
lot of changes."
Ensuring the site continues as a
storage facility is a priority not just
for the practical needs of local grow-
ers, Mr Vickers said, but is a matter
of historical preservation as well.
It is home to Australia's first pri-
vately owned cold store for apples
and pears, with Wicks and Filsell
starting operations in 1914.
In 1946, the Balhannah
Co-operative Society Limited was
formed with 31 members from the
For 30 years, it thrived as a stor-
age and packing facility, employing
50 people at its peak.
The number of rooms increased
Oldest cold storage in Australia
Co-op evolves into a company
Survival hopes pinned on retail
over time from four to 26, and many
other products were stored for local
It became a long-term storage facil-
ity for cheese from Murray Bridge,
and handled other important crops
including potatoes, onions, wine and
Diversification saw the inclusion
of freezer facilities and storage of
meat for Lobethal Meats, Springs
Smoked Seafoods in Mount Barker,
Beerenberg fruit, and a few thousand
Christmas turkeys for local butchers
The operation was approved
by the Australian Quarantine and
Inspection Service, and products
were exported across the globe.
But membership fell after 1980
as apple growers sold orchards and
Lack of demand saw an end to
the apple packing operation in
The facility began to rely more on
non-members to fill up its storage
A merchandise store operated to
service the needs of members and
over many years, grew to become the
substantial Mitre 10 hardware busi-
ness that for a time kept the co-op
viable, before saving it a second time
as an asset valuable enough to sell
and fund the revamp the owners feel
will keep the site going into a second
century of operation.
Balcos Pty Ltd general manager
Michael Davey in front of the Mitre
10 hardware business that kept the
co-op viable for some time.
Balhannah's ambitious revamp of its iconic site will prevent it from going
underground. It is scheduled to be completed in February 2015.
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