Continuing the family tradition

THE use of an independent financial broker has helped a young couple to consolidate a long-held ambition to take over the family farm and continue a proud, third-generation farming business.  

Brad and Natasha Poole run a mixed farming enterprise across 3550 ha of owned and leased land in the Sherlock region 35 km east of Tailem Bend.

Brad has been working with his parents, Kevin and Chris Poole, on the family farms, ‘Kaycee Plains’ and ‘Lone Gum’, since 2005.

The family plants between 1600 and 2000 ha of winter cereals each year, as well as running 1300 Merino and first cross ewes.

With average yields of 1.5 to 2 t/ha, it’s a numbers game where acreage and operational efficiency are paramount, particularly given Brad is now the primary labour unit.

“The secret out here is doing the most you can with good machinery and the least amount of inputs,” he says.

“One of the big benefits of our location is that Tailem Bend, Murray Bridge and Port Adelaide are reasonably close for us to deliver grain and hay and to pick up our inputs on the way back.

“We’ve also lucky to have a good farm machinery dealership in Karoonda, which is only 30 km away.” 

The cropping program includes 300 ha of oats.

“We’ve always grown hay to spread our risk,” Brad says. 

“After a bad frost in 2015, we decided to cut more hay than normal and some of it was suitable for the export market.

“We have a fairly reliable 350 to 400 mm rainfall but often we get a dry finish, which isn’t good for cereals but it’s great for making hay.

“To do export hay properly, we had to invest heavily in our own machinery – a square baler, a tractor, a rake, mower, truck and trailer – which Simon Franke helped us do, as he was our bank manager at the time.

“He touched base after he joined Nimbus and introduced his new business to us.”

By this stage, Brad and Natasha were already share farming another 800 ha of land owned by Brad’s uncle, Roger Poole, and just taken on a 1300 ha lease of a neighbouring property. 

“We were expanding and had a big interest bill, so any improvement was going to be a help,” Brad says. 

“Simon came out and said he could help.

“He looked through our books and put a preliminary proposal out to the banks. 

“We had three offers so it was a no-brainer for us to commit to refinancing.

“We saved 3.5% simply by switching banks. 

“In practical terms, that halved our interest bill and reduced the pressure on cash flow.” 

Nimbus is a network of independent finance brokers that specialise in agricultural and regional business.

Murray Bridge-based partner, Simon Franke, says the Pooles are a good example of how an independent broker can help farmers and regional business to secure competitive finance. 

“The first job was to establish their current position and their relationship with their existing bank,” he says. 

“Once we looked at their books and rates, it was obvious Brad and Tash were paying well above market rates. 

“We were able to present a viable risk to potential vendors and we had three offers from banks that were 100 or 150 km away. 

“Because I am not working for a bank, I was able to evaluate which product and bank best matched what Brad and Tash wanted, and then negotiate a competitive rate. 

“It’s not just the rate, it’s all the little bits and pieces that go with it.”

With Brad’s parents ready to retire, the family decided to enact their succession plan during the refinancing process. 

“It’s been a long and complicated process changing our legal and financial structures, but we got there in the end,” Brad says.

“Simon certainly made it a lot easier than if we had decided to do it ourselves. 

“He’s been the middleman between us and the banks.” 

As the primary labour unit in a 1600 ha cropping program, Brad spends weeks on end operating machinery during the busy sowing, spraying or harvesting periods. 

Likewise, Natasha, who works in tourism and event management, works two days a week in Murray Bridge.

“We don’t have time to drive to Murray Bridge every time we want to talk to our bank manager,” Brad says. 

“Nimbus has taken the place of our relationship with a bank and in effect, Simon is our bank manager. 

“We know him and he knows us and our business – and just as importantly, we know he’s on our side.

“We have no regrets.”

Natasha, who grew up in nearby Geranium, says it was a big decision to change banks. 

“We’d just been through some pretty tough years and we felt our bank had stood by us, so we were sensitive about changing,” she says.

“But we felt comfortable with Simon.

“We know him through work and socially and we trust him.”

Simon, who has more than 30 years of experience in agricultural and business finance, has since helped to arrange financing for several major machinery purchases, including a self-propelled sprayer and a new aircart.

Brad and Tash are now focussed on reducing debt with the view of acquiring more land if the opportunity arises.

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