Sugar industry mourns the loss of pioneer
WAYNE Rodgers was a man with a big heart, he loved big tractors, and had a smile that would light up a room.
He was full of big ideas and was a leader and inspiration for fellow sugar farmers and helped to make the industry what it is today.
The sugar industry on the Northern Rivers and across NSW has been hit hard by the sudden loss of the 52-year-old, who passed away after an accident on his Pimlico farm on Saturday afternoon.
He was an active director on the board of the NSW Sugar Milling Co-Operative and chairman of the Agricultural Advisory Committee and had been involved with the Richmond River Cane Growers Association and NSW Cane Growers.
Sunshine Sugar chairman Jim Sneesby said Mr Rodgers left behind a legacy steeped in his knowledge of the industry and his leadership qualities.
Coming from a family with a long history in sugar farming, Wayne got his first job operating a cane harvester aged 18 and Mr Sneesby said they'd known each other for about three decades.
"(Wayne's family) had a long association with the sugar industry on the Richmond and in NSW," Mr Sneesby said.
"His loss of life is a tragic loss to our industry.
"He was a really good administrator and he was a leader."
Together, Wayne and his brother Craig were "very good farmers", Mr Sneesby said.
Wayne's wife Leanne and their two children, James and Taylor, and other family members were heartbroken at the loss while his brother his mourning his "best mate" and farming partner.
"We're going to miss Wayne and what he contributed," Mr Sneesby said.
"Wayne and his family were heavily involved in the development of mechanical harvesting in NSW," he said.
"They were very heavily involved in farming systems development and in weed control and adopting new ideas that came into the industry.
"They were real leaders."
He said one of Wayne's great achievement came about from the restructure of research and development of the Australian sugar industry.
This led to his position leading the advisory committee.
"He worked really hard to make sure that our biosecurity was done properly, that our variety work was ongoing," Mr Sneesby said.
"It was a tragic accident and the industry … is saddened by the sad loss of a good bloke, a real personality but a very smart man and a leader."
Mr Sneesby said Wayne was the sort of leader who would "take people with him" along the journey of always improving the industry.
He said the Rodgers family have been innovators in harvesting, cropping, pursuing zero-tillage approaches and soybean rotations.
With their farm about 70 per cent of the way through the 2020 harvest, Mr Sneesby said he was sure other sugar farmers would lend a hand.
"I'm sure that other canegrowers on the Richmond and in NSW will step up and help Craig," he said.
He said the sudden loss was a reminder "there are always dangers" in farming, even for the most experienced professionals.
Sunshine Sugar CEO and friend of Wayne, Chris Connors, has remembered him as a "considerate" man.
"It is with the heaviest of hearts we have to farewell one of our own," Mr Connors said.
"Wayne was a shining light in our industry and will be deeply missed.
"In the 12 years I have known him since I came down from Queensland, he rang me nearly every week 'just to make sure I hadn't gone back over the border'.
"It was his way of making sure everything was okay.
"It reflects the considerate and positive attitude he had."