Vale John P. Bennett AM (1939 - 2023)
John Bennett AM, the co-founder of Ashgrove Farms and Ashgrove Cheese, dedicated his life to farming, his family, the local Deloraine community and transforming the Tasmanian, and broader Australian, Dairy Industries.
Born on Eddington Farm in the 1939, John grew up farming the fertile plains of Northern Tasmania, as his family had done for generations before him and continue to do so today.
In 1961, John received a P&O Young Farmer Scholarship to study agriculture in the United Kingdom.
The experience ignited his drive to innovate and lead change both at home on the farm and in the Australian Dairy Industry during the extremely challenging times for Tasmanian dairy farmers in the 1970s. This passion for improving and innovating continued throughout his life, holding roles such as Director of Asia Dairy Industries (HK) Ltd (1977 to 1987), President Commissioner of P.T. Indo Milk (1977 to 1984), a Director of Thai Dairy Industry Co. Ltd from 1980 to 1987 and Vice President of the International Federation of Agriculture Dairy Division in 1982.
John was a key driver and the inaugural Chair of the Australian Dairy Herd Improvement Scheme, which was formed in 1982.
John also initiated the establishment of the National Dairy Farmer Magazine to provide farmers with up-to-date technological know-how. This free, specialised rural magazine continues to educate farmers and connect regional communities, businesses and families today.
In 1991, John was awarded Member Order of Australia for his services to the Australian dairy industry.
In 1983, John and his brother Michael, along with their wives Connie and Maureen, formed the Ashgrove Farm Partnership. In the early 1990s, they took a leap of faith and became on-farm dairy manufacturers establishing the Ashgrove Farm Factory and specialising in premium quality, traditionally-styled cheese at the source, leading to the establishment of Ashgrove Cheese in 2001.
John was actively involved in all subsequent developments and expansions of the factory. With an integrated business approach, John headed Ashgrove Farms developing it into one of the strongest and most successful dairy farming family businesses in Australia, which is now led by his son, Paul. Furthermore, John initiated and guided as Chair of Ashgrove Cheese the developments for it to become one of Australia’s leading premium independent dairy brands and on-farm manufacturers.
In 2017, John was awarded the Kondinin ABC Rural Australian Farming Legend of the Year recognising his visionary leadership, courage and life-time contribution to the Australian Dairy Industry.
In 2022, John, along with his brother Michael, received the Tasmanian Dairy Service Award for their outstanding contributions and service within the dairy industry in Tasmania.
John was strongly committed to dairy research and helping dairy farmers and manufacturers to better compete, grow and stay relevant in the ever-changing market. As his daughter, Susan, wrote on John being awarded the Australian Farming Legend of the Year,
“Dad’s focus has always been community and on small companies ‘doing their bit’. That entrepreneurial spirit, passion, energy and love of community, will ensure modern farming in this country remains not only viable and sustainable, but continues to make a vital and growing contribution to our nation’s economy.”
John is survived by his wife of 58 years, Connie, and children, Susan, Mary, Paul and Anne, and adored grandchildren.