Two of WA’s most well-known and progressive farming families are among a high-calibre list of 18 in the running for the Australian Farmer of the Year Awards, after being recognised for their forward-thinking operations. Cranmore Farming and Moojepin Merinos, run by the Lefroy and Thompson families respectively, were the only two West Australian farming businesses in the running to win the national competition when the finalists roll call was unveiled this week. Now in its 11th year, the annual awards are co-ordinated by The Weekly Times and Coles and aim to honour the best in beef, cropping, dairy, horticulture, innovation and sheep in the 2022 calendar year. Cranmore Farming co-owner Tracy Lefroy said she and her husband Kristin were “overwhelmed” to receive a call late last year informing them they had been nominated, and to find out in January they had been named finalists. A friend in Victoria had put them forward. Cranmore Farming, at Moora, is run by the Lefroys and focuses on grains, oilseed, sheep, wool and beef. “For us, being selected as a finalist affirms our long-held belief that contemporary farming is not about farming for today, but about creating a farming system which spans over multiple seasons and incorporates sustainability, profitability and gives consideration to community vibrancy,” Ms Lefroy said. “Reflection is never a bad a thing, and completing the comprehensive case study required by The Weekly Times really gave us cause to look back on the changes we have made over the past decade. “We have a way to go, but we feel we are on the right path where we are finding synergies in our strategy to create a sustainable, profitable farming system whilst also adding value to our community through our involvement in local government, volunteering and sitting on boards of numerous production and policy-based agricultural groups.” With about 400mm of rainfall a year, the Lefroys have boosted their cropping to comprise of 70 per cent of the business, growing 2547ha of wheat, 1401ha of canola, 670ha of barley and 373ha of oaten hay. In recent years, the couple have turned to solar-powered desalination to run a confinement feeding area for sheep, saving the couple from buying-in scheme water when their dams run dry. The desal water is also used for spray water for the couple’s cropping program, spread across 4500ha of partly owned and leased land. With a salt content of 10,000 parts per million, the water for the bore is now being pumped into two tanks — one for desalinated water and one for blended water. When asked what their focus was moving forward, Ms Lefroy had a simple answer. “Futureproofing, overcoming challenges, and seizing opportunities,” she said. “It’s what we rural people do. The importance of telling the story of our agricultural industry and of living regionally to our non-rural counterparts is paramount. “It is through this storytelling, that we will ensure the real needs of farmers and rural communities are understood.” Moojepin Merinos — based at Badgebup, a locality east of Katanning in the Great Southern — is one of WA’s most progressive Merino studs with a firm focus on genetics to create easier-shearing, easier-care sheep. The operation is primarily run by father-and-son team David and Hamish Thompson, who together run a flock of 2300 stud Merino ewes and a 1400-ewe commercial flock run across 3000ha. Their first commercial sale was held in 1997. Early breeding changes were overseen by the late Jim Watts, who imprinted the Soft Rolling Skins philosophy, and in 1997, Moojepin Merinos sold their first rams at a commercial sale. Since starting to breed their own sheep in 1997, the Thompsons have focused on transitioning away from traditional, wrinkly sheep to an easier-care sheep and in 2004 they ceased mulesing. The winners will be announced at a ceremony in Melbourne on Friday, February 24.