Meet Our Team of Farmers

MSF is governed by a Board of up to 11 farmer and specialist Directors. The Board plays an important part in setting the strategic direction of Mallee Sustainable Farming with a vision to promote dynamic, profitable and sustainable farming systems across the low rainfall Mallee region.

Managing Director – since 2024

Jenny Garonne

Jenny Garonne brings over thirty years of leadership experience in business, economic and community development to Mallee Sustainable Farming (MSF).

A proven leader in the Mallee area, Jenny is very interested in working with the Board and the skilled team of individuals to increase the understanding of the needs of low rainfall Mallee farmers, extending the profile of the organisation and collaboration with other service providers to enhance sustainability and innovation in the tristate region.

Located in Mildura, Jenny has a strong agricultural foundation with family ties back to the turn of the century and is committed to supporting farmers and their communities to be resilient not only for the coming years, but well into the future. With formal qualifications in accounting, an Executive Masters in Public Administration and graduate and member of the AICD, Jenny has extensive knowledge of finance and management to lead the organisation.

MSF Chair – since 2023

Steve Burt

Steve Burt is a successful entrepreneur and business leader in agribusiness. As Managing Director of Turfbreed Pty Ltd, Steve has been responsible for driving the company’s growth and success.

With his experience in managing multiple businesses including grain trading company PentAG Nidera Pty Ltd, and his position as a Non-executive Director of AMPS Agribusiness, he brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to his role.

NSW Farmer Director – since 2021

Nicole Byrnes

Nicole Byrnes farms with her husband in the Pooncarie district in Western NSW on wheat and sheep stations, over two properties totalling 12,000 acres situated on the Darling River and Great Anabranch.

MSF - Gavin Howley

NSW Farmer Director – since 2019

Gavin Howley

Gavin farms with his wife, Rhiannon and his mother and father. “Woodmount” is approx 6000 hectares about half being floodplain forests on the Wakool – Murray junction at Kyalite. The farm has been in his family for over 100yrs and is a grain and sheep farm.

Gavin completed a Bachelor of Agriculture at Adelaide University, Roseworthy Campus and has done a farm exchange to the province of Saskatchewan in Canada.

VIC Farmer Director – since 2018

Chris Hunt

Chris is based in the Millewa farming 5,000 ha, growing cereal grain and hay, grain legumes and running sheep.

Chris worked off farm for many years, in different jobs as a diesel mechanic in heavy earth moving, before he returned to the family farming business in 2011. Chris is currently farming with his brother Anthony and father Colin. He is married with two young boys.

MSF Vice Chair & SA Farmer Director – since 2014

Andrew Biele

Andrew started his farming career on the 2,000ha mixed family farm at New Residence, west of Loxton SA. Encouraged to get a trade Andrew qualified as a mechanic and gained valuable machinery knowledge, always assisting in harvest, sowing and shearing during these busy times.
Andrew has also worked within SARDI managing field operations out of Loxton which involved all forms of research, including grain variety trials and frost research.

VIC Farmer Director – since 2022

Michael (Mick) Pole

Michael Pole farms at Walpeup in North West Victoria and is a partner in a collaborative broad acre cropping farm. Michael is married to Kate and they have two primary school aged boys, Will and Charlie.

Michael completed year 12 and worked on the family farm with his father Robert until seven years ago when he commenced the collaborative farming business with his neighbour and friend Jim Wakefield.

Since 2016 Michael has been on the GRDC NVT Advisory Board. He has hosted many trials over a long period of time, and continues to support and supply land for research or monitoring sites for various organisations.
Michael has been involved in his local community for many years and is a committee member of the Walpeup and District Development Committee and the Ouyen United Football and Netball Club.

I am really looking forward to working with a positive, proactive committee that can continue to lead and adapt farming into some very exciting and challenging times ahead. I look forward to the challenge to help continue to engage farmers into relevant research in a rapid changing environment.

SA Farmer Director – since 2021

Chad Nickolls

Chad is a grain and hay producer from Pinnaroo, farming with his father and brother and families. He studied a Bachelor of Ag Science at Adelaide Uni and did a short stint as a graduate agro with Landmark before returning home to the family farm.

Chad finds farming in the Mallee challenging and rewarding and is also involved with the local and wider ag community where he can meet like minded people who also share a passion for agriculture.

Chad’s long term goals are to be an efficient and productive producer while maintaining a sustainable system which can hopefully offer the next generation the same opportunities he has been given.

Specialist Director – since 2024

Angela Ewing

Angela brings invaluable experience to our board. Her impressive background includes roles at Ambulance Victoria and the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, showcasing her expertise in operational strategy, market access, and policy implementation. Angela’s passion for sustainable farming and her commitment to supporting rural communities make her a perfect fit for MSF. She is eager to leverage her knowledge to empower farmers in the tristate region of Victoria, NSW, and SA, aiding them with research opportunities and informed decision-making for the future of their farms.

Mallee Sustainable FarmingMallee Sustainable Farming

Senior Project Manager – M&E Specialist

Jay Cummins

Jay is MSF’s Monitoring and Evaluation specialist as well as a Senior Project Manager, overseeing the management and delivery of MSF’s high level multi-stakeholder projects across the Mallee. Jay is no stranger to the Mallee, commencing his career as an agronomist in the Southern Mallee at Lameroo that provided the foundation to later undertake agricultural extension and adoption research in developing countries globally.

Project Manager – Livestock & Carbon

Nick Paltridge

Nick joined the MSF team in 2022. He has more than 25 years’ experience in agricultural research and extension, as well as in practical livestock production in south-east SA. In recent years he has held positions with the SA Government’s Red Meat and Wool Growth Program, and ran a project investigating opportunities for Mallee farmers to participate in carbon markets. Nick is MSF’s project lead for carbon outreach and livestock production and Project Manager for sustainable agriculture projects.

Project & Event Support Manager

Sonia Allen

Sonia joined the MSF team in 2018 as Project and Event Support Officer.

Sonia and her family relocated to the SA Mallee in 2014 and they now call Tailem Bend home. Sonia is a Project and Event Support Officer with a strong community focus and has more recently taken on a Project Management role with MSFs community capacity projects. She is highly involved in local groups and committees and she loves nothing more than getting out and meeting new people.

When she’s not working or volunteering, Sonia loves being outdoors in the sunshine and enjoying time with family and friends.

Program Manager – Outreach

Tanja Morgan

Tanja is from Jabuk and is a wife to @AdamMorgan77 (Twitter), a mother to three daughters, and partner of Morgan Partners Farms. As Tanja says, “multitasking at its finest or worst – depends on the day!”
We asked Tanja what she loves about living in the Mallee and this is what she said:
“I love the peace and quiet, roaming the farm with my Labradors by my side. Working for MSF and travelling through the tri-state area, interacting with Mallee farmers from SA, VIC & NSW. Low rainfall farmers demonstrate the meaning of resilience and making the most of what the land has to offer. Can’t go past the spectacular Mallee sunsets.”

Member and Project Support

Kylie Matthewson

Kylie Matthewson joined the MSF team in March 2022.

Kylie grew up on a farm at Cooke Plains SA, and completed a Bachelor of Agriculture at Roseworthy. She and husband Sean live in Murray Bridge and have three young sons.

Kylie is an active community member, involved in volunteering at the Tailem Bend Netball and Football Club. Kylie is also a ‘people person’ and has a passion for helping farmers and farming communities to thrive.

Kylie is MSF’s ‘go to’ person for member support as well as supporting project delivery.

Project Manager

Paige Cross

Paige is the owner of Cross Country Management, a project management and consultancy business servicing the Australian agricultural industries.

Paige is based in Adelaide, South Australia returning to her home state after a 20 year career in the finance, government and healthcare sectors across the Eastern states of Australia.

Having grown up in regional South Australia on a sheep and grain farm, Paige has worked with many businesses throughout regional Victoria and South Australia, focusing on ensuring strong engagement and relationships with other business stakeholders and understanding each of the stakeholders role moving forward. Paige immensely enjoys working on projects that add value to regional communities and the agriculture sector.

Paige also has a Bachelor of Applied Science (Agronomy), a Cert IV in Frontline Management and a Cert IV in Training and Facilitation.

Business Administration and Finance Manager

Kimberley Jacobs

Kimberley Jacobs joined the MSF team as Business Support Officer in September 2022. Kimberley and her husband are parents to four daughters and have a dryland cropping property at Coonalpyn.

Kimberley is an active member in her community, being a life member for the Border Downs Tintinara Football Club and more recently actively volunteering for the Jervois Netball Club.

Kimberley is passionate about community and providing support for those in the Mallee region.

Board Support

Jenny Bennett

Jenny Bennett was born in Mildura and was raised on a citrus and vine property. She married a Merbein “blockie” and having lived on the land all her life she is very interested in farming and agriculture. She loves living in a rural area, with fresh air, plenty of space as well as socialising with friends of many years standing.

Jenny held secretarial roles at the National Bank, the Irymple Packing Pty Ltd and SuniTAFE in Mildura (32 years). She also gained a part time teacher certificate and taught Pitman’s shorthand and business topics.

She started taking minutes for MSF at its first Board meeting in 2017 and now works as Board Support Officer. She enjoys working for a group that strives to invest so that its farming systems, in the dryland Mallee, can be as productive and resilient as possible.

Over the years Jenny has been heavily involved with local community groups. She is a Justice of the Peace and currently Deputy Chair and Media Officer for the Sunraysia group of of Justices. She is on the Board of the Christie Centre in Mildura, a Life Member of Merbein Historical Society and is active with exercise groups, and the Merbein Book Club.

She received a Centenary medal in 2001 and was awarded a Public Service Medal for her contribution to the community and education.

Program Manager

Tim Smythe

Tim Smythe joined MSF in November 2023 and is responsible for MSF’s Program Management. Tim brings experience across both State and Local Government and a background in technical viticulture management and wine industry development. At heart, Tim is a problem solver that looks for connectedness (using an end-to-end systems based approach), builds relationships, brings an analytical approach that focuses on application and identifying next steps, and values each opportunity as a learning experience.

Tim is based in Loxton, where he lives with his wife Margot and two sons, and looks forward to supporting the important work of Mallee Farmers.

Extension Agronomist

Louise Brok

Louise joined the MSF team as an extension agronomist in 2023 to assist in the translation of our field R&D projects into our extension program. Originally from New Zealand, she has degrees in Agricultural Science from Massey University, along with experience in field trials and farmer engagement projects around practice change. Louise is based in Merrinee with her partner on a cropping farm.

Research Manager

Penny Roberts

Joining MSF in 2024 Dr Penny Roberts is a passionate agricultural systems scientist focused on the challenges of adaptation to climate change and supplying a growing population with nutritious food. Her recent research has focused around supporting the development of the pulse grain sector in South Australia. She is an Affiliate Associate Lecturer at The University of Adelaide with experience in cropping, pastures, livestock and farming system modelling. Penny loves nothing better than being active in the natural environment and exploring it with her family.