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Kidman spirit helps drive Kapunda to new heights


The historic Lower North town is the third finalist of five in the 2021 Agricultural Town of the Year Awards to be presented on Friday evening at the Adelaide Hills Convention Centre.

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Kapunda’s farming history runs deep. This region is the epicentre of famed pastoralist Sir Sidney Kidman’s empire and is home to Anlaby Station with its oldest bloodline of merino ewes in the country.

The original Kidman family bluestone home is now one of the main buildings at the local high school.

Pepper Mickan oversees the Kidman exhibition housed upstairs at the local library and she tells of long-held links with her family through the generations.

“One of my great grandmothers used to work in the Kidman home that is now part of the school,” she says.

“My Dad was groundsman at the school where the Kidman family home is now and is still driving the school bus, and my older brother worked at the school and his office was in what was one of the old bathrooms in the Kidman house.”

There are new plans afoot to further celebrate the region’s agricultural history with a new dedicated Drover’s Encounter modern museum to complement 16 agri-style murals already in the town.

The town’s largest employer, JT Johnson and Sons, is also keen to pay homage to the town’s agricultural history. Its main office is based in the carefully restored and modernised former Kapunda show pavilion with 140-year-old shiraz grape vines growing outside.

This fourth-generation family-owned stockfeed business is Kapunda’s largest industry, supplying Australia, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, and employing more than 100 people in the town.

JT Johnson has expanded into Horsham and Dooen in Victoria and has a cattle feedlot in Dublin, South Australia that is currently undergoing expansion to increase capacity from 5,000 head to 10,000.

The business is now investing $3m in new enclosed storage facilities in Kapunda to provide additional capacity for regional growers and greater crop rotation opportunities to supply straw and hay for export markets – building resilience against future droughts.

“I was born and bred here,” manager Andrew Hayward says.

“It’s a good town, it’s safe, everyone looks out for each other, and I can work for Johnson and be involved on the international stage while still living in little old Kapunda.”

Corey Ryan, Andrew Hayward and Simon White at JT Johnson and Sons stockfeed business in Kapunda. Photo: Belinda Willis.

Although Kapunda is renowned for its rich farming land that rarely changes hands, there are still many younger farmers wanting to run their businesses better, according to Richard Noll and Jason McKenzie who jointly own NTS Rural with two other partners.

Their NTS Rural business offers soil grid mapping for “a younger group of farmers now looking to expand and get into tech”.

In the past 15 months, 12 new businesses have opened in Kapunda creating local jobs and tourist attractions.

One is Diener Solar Water Pumps, which works with farmers across SA to pump groundwater efficiently in a changing climate, where surface water dams have dried up.

Another new business is Got a Bug group. It is designing and building a new bait trapping prototype Pigbaitta to tackle national issues with feral pigs causing environmental damage and problems for sheep farmers.

Horses are still important to this region where Kidman’s legendary horse sales held near the new town square attracted buyers across the country.

JT Johnson joint owner Robbie and his wife Jade now own Double J Quarter Horses, one of Australia’s best known quarter horse studs for the cow horse industry.

Wandering the lush property with its stables and training stadium, Johnson points out breeding horses worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

A four-day-old foal is the offspring of one of the top producing stallions and mares in the country.

Robbie believes he will attract a lot of interest in a “sport for your urban cowboy” with high profile names like John Farnham involved in competitions.

And Jade says Kapunda is the perfect place for their world-class stud.

“We just love living here, we wouldn’t live anywhere else,” she says.

The five finalists for the 2021 Agricultural Town of the Year will be introduced this week in InDaily as part of Solstice Media’s Regional Showcase program

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