Till death us do part

The trials and tribulations of the last 18 months have left us questioning our resolve to get up every day to help feed the world. See previous post

2011 started with a supermarket price war instigated by Coles that used “free” milk as a customer traffic driver with a laughable promise by Coles that this would not affect farmers

In March we had the 1 in 50 year flood and the heartbreak that brings including being utterly powerless to save one of our most adorable cows when she was swept into the floodwaters and found herself stuck in a drain with no chance of survival.

Dolman CL SIMOLA

Simola (pictured with Emma) lost her life in the March 2011 flood

Then all the Dairy Farmers (who supply National Foods) suppliers in our region felt the impact of the milk price wars with a 30% drop in their allocated quotas as well as a drop in farm gate milk price

Always looking for the opportunity we rose to the challenge and managed after much haggling to convince Dairy Farmers to allow us to bring both our Dairy Farmers contracts to the Clover Hill farm. In the first instance this required a $170,000 investment in a new milk vat. We were then able to grow our business, keep the staff we had and employ one more by supplying Parmalat from our Lemon Grove Farm.

This also required the purchase of 100 more cows and the need to grow enough pasture to graze 6 cows to the hectare which is almost three times the industry average. This is very doable in paradise but along came the 1 in 25 year flood with us now finding ourselves 4 weeks behind with pasture sowing and feeding our cows twice a day on bought in feed with the help of the mixer wagon which adds two hours to Michael’s day .

Michael uses the mixer wagon to supplement the milking cows feed when pasture levels are low

We have pushed the boundaries in the last twelve months at all levels and it isn’t just the landscape feeling the pressure. Every night Michael comes in and spends two hours with his knees elevated wrapped in ice doing his best to give everyone who walks in the door that big smile he is so famous for and it breaks my heart to see him in so much pain from the rigors of his job

On Friday some-one on twitter shared this article with me and this breakout piece so resonated with me.

Why don’t farmers retire?

“Agriculture is notorious for having a skewed age structure,” says Dr Matt Lobley, of the Centre for Rural Policy Research, University of Exeter.

“Unlike any other profession, there is not much separation between what somebody does for a living and their whole personality.

“They can literally go outside and walk around the farm and see the products of their labours written into the landscape – in the shape of the walls, the hedges and in the fields.

“It can be very difficult to face up to that time when they have to let go either partially, or fully.

“These farmers are also socially embedded into their communities, and they have an intimate knowledge of the land.

“They understand micro-climates of individual fields – which are the last to warm up, where you get frost pockets or flooding. That knowledge is often under-estimated, even by the farmers themselves.”

My family is proud to farm. We are committed to supplying affordable, nutritious, ethically produced milk to over 50,000 Australian everyday but we cant do it for free

In the words of Louise Fresco “Food is as important as energy, as security, as the environment. Everything is linked together.”

All Australians must value food at its true value and be prepared to pay for it.  Yet we continue to ignore this at our peril and we are denying these young people a future as part of the noblest profession and this wont happen either Julia if we don’t have the farmers to fuel the agribusiness sector.

Stand up Australia and be counted. May I suggest we all start with a signature on this petition to send to the Victorian Government to try & stop the National Centre for Farmer Health from closing. http://www.change.org/petitions/state-government-of-victoria-stop-the-national-centre-for-farmer-health-from-closing

Author: Lynne Strong

I am a 6th generation farmer who loves surrounding myself with optimistic, courageous people who believe in inclusion, diversity and equality and embrace the power of collaboration. I am the founder of Picture You in Agriculture. Our team design and deliver programs that inspire pride in Australian agriculture and support young people to thrive in business and life

3 thoughts on “Till death us do part”

  1. Not sure what to say – but don’t give up! Australia needs people like you to wake us up to the issue.

  2. Yes, you’ve echoed my sentiments exactly, Lynne. I feel so connected to this place that just the thought of giving up brings tears to my eyes but can I expect my little family to suffer financial hardship that translates into long, hard days for all of us (even baby) without light at the end of the tunnel? On the other hand, farm life offers so much for children…

    1. Yes Marian sadly all Australian farmers are finding they cant get up every day and put their lives on the line ( and those of their families) to subsidise food in this country for too much longer

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