Redeemer Past Student named Australian Farmer of the Year

Redeemer Lutheran College past student, Matthew Keith (Class of 1993), has recently been awarded the Australian Farmer of the Year for 2016. The awards recognise rural champions both on and off-farm. Celebrating innovation, diversity, passion and success, the awards showcase the modern face of farming, while paying tribute to those who have made enormous contributions. These annual awards are co-hosted by ABC Rural and the Kondinin Group.

Australia's Farmer of the Year Matthew Keith (93) (married to Miquette (Cavill 93) is a cane farmer turned rubbish warrior, who with his grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, siblings and cousins, has turned the family business into a recycling facility. The Keith family farms 600 hectares of sugarcane at Woongoolba, half way between Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

"Our family business started back in the 1940s when my grandfather, from very humble beginnings, started farming sugarcane," Matthew said.

The next generation, including Chris (95) and Josh (03) has since transformed the business by taking the green leaves left on the ground after harvesting and turning them into mulch.

"Depending on the price of sugar at the time, this mulch can be up to 50 to 100 percent to the value of sugar," Matthew said.

"Sugar cane prices fluctuate and you never know what the weather's doing, so it just gives you a bit more security."

In 2001, the family started Rocky Point Mulching, selling packaged sugarcane mulch to hardware stores.

The company now has an annual turnover of $30 million, sourcing cane waste from growers throughout south east Queensland and northern New South Wales.

"A lot of local farmers say it's the difference between being viable with growing sugar and not," Matthew said.

Led by cousin, Joshua Keith (03), the family is currently expanding its recycling portfolio, by sourcing waste wood and green waste from Gold Coast City Council and turning it into decorative mulch.

"We take in urban waste timber like pallets, diverting it from landfill and grinding it up as mulch," he said.

They also want to invest in energy production technology, powered by waste products.

"We're a very large power consumer here on site, so we're looking at anything where we may be able to generate our own power," Matthew said.

"If you stand still for too long other guys will overtake you, so you've always got to be looking and researching into other areas."

The Keith family also owns cattle properties in southern Queensland.

A family celebration: Michael Keith, Jennifer Keith, Teagen Dakers (Keith 05), Cherie Keith, Brieanna Keith, Josh Keith (03), Alexander Keith, Chris Keith (95), David Keith, Janette Keith and Matt Keith (93) celebrate winning Farmer of the Year.

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