South West farming stalwart still a busy man
For Mike Norton, agriculture remains a passion although it has spawned into a longstanding career.
Countryman journalist Zach Relph spoke with the veteran mixed-enterprise farmer about the range of roles he has held during a decorated working life.
Today, Mr Norton still juggles multiple positions within the agricultural sector and his main duty as patriarch of the family’s beef, dairy, wool, sheepmeat, feed grain and vegetable enterprise.
The qualified pilot, who entered aviation more than 40 years ago to reduce travel time between his Capel and Boyup Brook farms, talks proudly of his farming operation run in partnership with wife Pauline and their two sons Luke and Casey.
Despite the hefty workload managing two properties which are based about 110km apart, the 74-year-old has no intention of drawing the curtain on his glittering career anytime soon.
“It still keeps me busy,” Mr Norton said.
“There is always plenty happening and a lot going on.”
After being born into a farming family based in the South West at Capel, Mr Norton has risen up the ranks to be one of the State’s most respective farming figureheads.
He was thrust into the agriculture-political realm in the 1960s to fight for the survival of Capel’s now defunct saleyards.
It marked the start of a long journey which notably includes a five-year stint as WAFarmers president, holding the vice-president position at Cattle Council of Australia and helping select Meat and Livestock Australia’s inaugural board.
However, driving the formation of the WA Meat Marketing Co-operative in 1999 — which was spun out of the former Western Australian Lamb Marketing Board — as the group’s founding director remains his greatest accomplishment.
“It has been a good ride,” he said.
“Being involved with WAMMCO in its early days was probably my greatest achievement.
“It cuts out the middleman and all of the profits go back to the farmers.”
In January, Mr Norton was bestowed an Order of Australia medal during Australia Day celebrations for his significant contribution to the country’s livestock industry.
It tops a mounting list of accolades for the modest man’s agricultural involvement, having also been awarded a WAFarmers life membership in 2013.
Mr Norton remains busy in his roles as National Livestock Identification System cattle committee chairman for WA, WAFarmers Vasse zone chairman and acting on Farmsafe WA Alliance’s board.
Reflecting on the livestock industry’s development during is lifetime, Mr Norton is upbeat about the nation’s farming and says he will continue to act as an advocate for quality assurance and disease control.
Yet, he concedes farmers face major obstacles in the current agriculture climate, flagging the animal activist threat as the biggest issue.
“The connection between agriculture and city-centric areas is poles apart and activists home in on that,” he said.
When Mr Norton is not consumed by his on-farm work, he often takes flight in his Cessna aircraft, which he bought in 1974.
Although he no longer does “much of the heavy lifting”, Mr Norton says he will always be infatuated by farming.
“I don’t have many hobbies, besides aeroplanes, and I don’t really play golf or bowls but I certainly enjoy farming,” he said.
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