Esperance farmer Chris Reichstein’s legacy leaves global impact

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Mt Burdett farmer Chris Reichstein.
Camera IconMt Burdett farmer Chris Reichstein. Credit: Corrina Ridgway

His legacy in Esperance is unrivalled, and now farming communities in developing countries will benefit from a half-a-million dollar donation from the late Chris Reichstein.

A 2014 Nuffield Scholar, Mr Reichstein died on July 16 after a six-year battle with stomach cancer.

His massive donation, gifted shortly before his death, will fund Nuffield scholarships in South America, Africa and Eastern Europe.

Kalannie farmer, fellow 2014 Scholar and close friend Bob Nixon revealed the news at Nuffield WA’s annual luncheon in Perth late last month .

“Chris has left a huge legacy by donating a significant amount of money to Nuffield International; it’s about $500,000 with the possibility of more money to follow,” he said.

“This will be used towards scholarships for people within developing countries in South America, Africa and Eastern Europe, and be leveraged up from local contributions.

“The aim is to also establish Nuffield further in these countries.”

Nuffield International chair Andrew Fowler — an Esperance farmer and good friend of Mr Reichstein — told the Countryman work was already under way to establish Nuffield in Chile and Zimbabwe.

Esperance farmer Andrew Fowler
Camera IconEsperance farmer Andrew Fowler Credit: Corrina Ridgway

He said Argentina was also in their sights, with Kenya and Poland possible future contenders.

“Zimbabwe historically was a Nuffield country but it lapsed, so Nuffield International has been working with a committee there, and we’ve got an association formed in Chile and we’ve been doing the best we can to select scholars from those countries,” he said. “

The Chris Reichstein philanthropy fund will really help that process in those two countries immediately.

“In other countries that may follow, it’s going to take a bit of time because we’ve got to build up those local connections and committees and find some local champions to drive it in-country.

“Chris was always a really big believer in communities helping themselves so it’s important that you don’t just throw money at a country; they have to have buy-in and commitment at a local level as well, and we’re just trying to accelerate and enhance the process.”

Mr Fowler said applications were already “flowing in”, with scholarships due to be granted around early November — some of which will be supported by Mr Reichstein’s donation.

“Chris was interested in making a difference and he could see an opportunity,” Mr Fowler said. “It’s an opportunity to improve communities and agriculture in those developing countries by inspiring some of the best young farmers there and giving them the same opportunities we’ve had.”

Mr Reichstein’s Nuffield Scholarship saw him visit Brazil, New Zealand, USA and the United Kingdom along with Mr Nixon.

“You couldn’t pick a better bloke to spend 11 weeks on the road with,” Mr Nixon said.

“The value in Nuffield comes from being exposed to different people from different countries, their cultures and their way of thinking.”

Chris Reichstein in a barley crop on his farm near Esperance in November 2018.
Camera IconChris Reichstein in a barley crop on his farm near Esperance in November 2018. Credit: Corrina Ridgway

Also speaking at the Nuffield WA Luncheon was board member and Cunderdin farmer Dave Fulwood, who paid tribute to Mr Reichstein for his generous donation.

“His contribution will be very carefully managed by Nuffield Australia and Nuffield International to develop countries that haven’t had the opportunities that we have,” he said. “It’s very exciting times.”

Mr Fulwood said Nuffield International awarded four scholarships in 2020 and was likely to award another three this year.

“Nuffield International has been working closely with Brazil for the last few years and Nuffield Brazil has been formed officially; we also have Nuffield Germany as an associate country,” he said.

“Nuffield International is going along really well and obviously, with the help of Chris’ contribution, that’s going to be furthered.”

Mr Reichstein’s 2900ha cropping farm — estimated to be worth more than $30 million — is being held in a trust, generating income for the Mt Burdett Esperance Community Foundation which he established in 2019.

The Foundation is being used to fund local projects that improve health, education, youth, arts and public amenities in the Esperance area.

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