Don’t expect to see positive change if you surround yourself with negativity

As soon as you pass through the magnificent avenue of trees at Gundowringa at Crookwell you realise you have arrived at a farm steeped in heritage

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Charlie Prell inspired by the visionaries who came before him 

On your left is the 160-year-old  woolshed that in its heyday accommodated 16,000 sheep and the stone shearer’s quarters built in 1916

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Today it sleeps up to 18 to supplement the farm’s income through fly fishing and farmstay opportunities

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On your right is a stone cottage of the same era and to the right of the stone cottage stands the pavilion that once overlooked the cricket oval

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But the pièce de résistance is the homestead. Everything else is a reminder of when the country rode on the sheep’s back. The homestead underpins why the family is so committed to making farming work for them and the generations to come in the 21st Century

Gundowringa Homestead was built by Chas E Prell in 1905 out of basalt and granite and roof tiles that were used as ballast on ships doing the round trip from UK to Australia 

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Chas E Prell – the first of 5 generations of the Prell family on Gundowringa

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The gardens were laid out while the house was being built. There are some very impressive large trees, some now over 100 years old. Including what is believed to be the oldest and largest Linden grown in this country. Other breathtaking species include an evergreen example of the liquid amber family the Liquidamber festerii

It was the rose garden and the horizontal elm, with the flattened canopy designed to allow you to walk under that caught my eye.

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The house has maid’s quarters and when first built visitors were greeted at the door by a butler. At the height of the wool boom the property supported thirty jobs

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The homestead was adapted to use as farmstay accommodation in 2000 by Charlie’s parents Jeff and Jess Prell until Jess death in 2008

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Jeff Prell – a man with every right to be proud of what his family has achieved and the perfect host to share his family heritage past

Jeff has found love again and married local artist Margaret Shepherd whose studio and artworks bring a new vibrancy to the homestead

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The current generation have a lot to inspire them and inspired they are. Inspired to adapt and move with the times. Inspired to respect the landscape and work in partnership with it

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Jeff and Charlie Prell marching into the future 

Like his great grandfather and his namesake Charlie Prell knows that pioneers who advocate and help drive change are often initially perceived as being radical in the extreme particularly by people entrenched in the past

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Charlie Prell – a bright future relies on innovation and making the most of the ssets you have 

What we often forget is what traditionally sets people like Charlie and his great grandfather apart is their commitment to the greater good. Charlie Prell has leased part of Gundowringa to a company who will install a wind farm. He is also helping farmers across Australia find alternate fresh income streams from renewable energy technology.

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The site of the future Gundowringa Windfarm

Charlie is using part of his new stream of passive income to reinvigorate and drought proof the farm and embrace the opportunities that the combination of the diverse income streams of renewable energy, tourism and food and fibre production offer to sustaining generations of Prell family members as long as they wish to remain there.

Nobody will ever be able to say that Charlie Prell is a victim of the disconnect between reality of the vargaries of farming and the idealism of the view that food and fibre production alone will keep Australian farming families in business for the long haul in the 21st Century

Today it’s hard to believe that the now acknowledged visionary Chas E Prell the man who epitomised the “producing more with less’ ethos and pioneered pasture improvement utilising superphosphate fertiliser was in his time considered a maverick who didn’t follow convention. Its a reminder that its important not to forget the past. What’s even more important is to learn from it.

Change is the law of life

I recently heard some-one say the jobs available in ten years’ time to young people currently in primary school wont have been heard of today. My greatest hope is that agriculture becomes a visionary in learning from its past and embracing the opportunities a partnership between farmers and nature offers

 

 

 

 

Todays Youth Tomorrows Farmer

Last weekend I went back to my roots and visited my dad who I have always called John

John is one of a large number of farmers who are contributing to the rising age of the average farmer i.e. still going strong at 83.

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John and Lucy

I always thought the ‘average age of farmers’ figures are pretty woolly in that farmers who continue to live where they work never retire.

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Just to prove my point meet John’s  next door neighbour also called John (on the bike – check out my John’s hot Ute) 82 years old  and still running a slick operation his farm 

As my John says “what would I do”.  Indeed unless your lifelong dream is to spend your retirement travelling the world then where better to spend your time than doing what you love best. clip_image003

In my dad’s case that is growing prime Angus steaks for your table

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And growing the best pasture he can (and conserving it) to make sure those cows he loves so much are well fed

Now my dad is still waiting for his son to return to the farm.

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Things where looking up 3 years ago when all his worldly possession arrived on the door step

But he was lured away by lucrative offers from the mining companies and my dad lives for the time he comes home on short breaks as he is this week. I will do a whole blog post on my dad and his farm shortly.

We know young people are the key to success for agriculture and I know agriculture has talented young people ready to take on the challenge. Young people with fire in their bellies taking every opportunity to generate a buzz around Australian agriculture   .

I know this because I work with these exciting young people every day

This weekend I am down in Bega and taking time out to visit two of these dynamos in  Art4Agriculture Young Dairy Farming Champions, Andrew D’Arcy and Tom Pearce.

Both Tom and Andrew have been farming side by side with their dads ever since they left school (and in reality since the day they were tall enough to put cups on cows)

The Pearce family lives on Pearce’s Rd as you do when generations of your family have farmed in the one spot. My dad lives on a road named after his farm

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940 acres of rolling hills, bush and pasture. The pasture is currently 50:50 perennials to annuals with the traditional kikuyu base over sown with perennial and annual ryegrass, chicory and plantain over sown with oats in the autumn for those into the technical

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Norm and Tom Pearce work side by side to milk 260 cows in a 16 aside swing over herringbone dairy

The farm is beautiful

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And the cows  _

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and their offspring are happy and contented

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This  one peeking around the corner of the tree is a bit like Tom’s dad a bit camera shy

The farm is heaped in tradition and I so enjoyed the walk from the ‘new’ dairy up to the original walk through dairy where the cows where milked by hand up until the 1950’s

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Tom’s sister is getting married shortly here and you can see the views will make for great wedding photos

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The Pearce’s have recently installed a K-Line irrigation system to improve water use efficiency. Whilst they have a 560 mega litre water license , they currently only have a 40% allocation. Water is indeed a very expensive and very precious water resource.

You can check out how K-Line irrigation works in this great little vid

Tom Pearce is of course the farmer who puts the cheese on your cracker

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and was recently immortalized on the front of Bega’s Colby CheeseTom-Pearce-Farmers-Tasty-Cheese_thumb.jpg

Tomorrow I am off to visit the Andrew D’Arcy. Wow wait till you see the technology on Team D’Arcy’s farm

BTW Curious like I was what this is

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Tom tells me this is an antique wooden ice chest now home to Roger the Rat

History is remembered by how the historians write it

When I first started writing this blog just over 12 months ago it was (or so I thought) an opportunity to share with the community and provide insights into what happens on our dairy farm and the diverse ways beyond the farm gate I use to share that story and advocate for the people and the places behind the food we eat     .

Now as it turns out my readers are invariably much more interested in my agri-political commentary so these days my posts tend to be more about the challenges of farming and the supply chain that delivers the milk from my farm to your glass. That’s fine that’s what my readers want.

For me it has become a record of my life and the way I think and feel about a number of things. Its also an outlet and a hobby ( of which I have too few). Its cathartic. There are times when the web that strangles agriculture so frustrates me I want to scream so I sit down and I vent through my blog and I feel better and I can get on with life and and have a productive day. I love the feedback. Its like having a huge virtual support network  to get you through the tough times

It has other advantages too.  My father is an avid reader of my blog. As I am dreadful at keeping in touch with family and friends the blog helps make up for this flaw in my personality

John

I have been hassling my father for quite some time to write me some guest blog posts and share with my readers some insights into his life growing up on the dairy farm. Remember this is the man who constantly told me growing up “Lynne never learn to milk a cow” so obviously dairy farming wasn’t his idea of the ideal career pathway. I am not sure if he jinxed me but I did try once to milk cows and it was a disaster and I quickly learnt to stick at what I do best

Whilst I was in WA in November last year I took the opportunity to visit my father’s brother and his wife  – the gorgeous Uncle Dave and Aunty Ros,  In an effort to gain family solidarity in my drive to get my father blogging his family history I told my Aunt and Uncle of my plan and how I thought it would help greatly if we had some photos

I was very excited when Uncle Dave and Aunty Ros said they believe they have some photos going back to when my dad was just a youngster in boxes in their garage (mine are in boxes in my roof – that goodness for the new digital age) and they are unearthing them for me and then we can see if these ‘blasts from the past’  give my father the necessary inspiration

What they have unearthed to date is this

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That’s me on the left with Uncle Dave on his wedding day. My cousin and I were flower girls. I was thrilled to see I was even a fashion icon way back then with pink glasses to match the pink flower girl dress.

BTW Dad you are on notice – its time to start tapping on that iPad

Got my walking shoes on today

With my 2013 mission to live everyday as if it was your last, today Michael and I joined forces with our good friends Bev and Don to do the magnificent 6km section of the Kiama Coastal Walk from Kiama to Gerringong.

Loves Bay to Werri Beach Lagoon

Bev and Don are doing a walking holiday through Spain and Morocco later in the year so now looked like as good a time as any to get fit.

Loves Bay Kiama Coastal Walk

And before you knew it we were off – looking pretty confident at this stage considering all four of us had major surgery during the year

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Our section of the walk took as on a ‘dramatic, coast-hugging route between Kiama Heights and Werri Lagoon’.

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A popular spot for taking out the tinnie

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Looking back to Kiama

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The boys were keen to set the pace. Check out that work boot tan

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Sadly there were far too many fisherman playing Russian Roulette on the rocks without lifejackets

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and illegal squatters Tut tut

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Kiama’s very own ‘apostle”

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The Kiama coastline at 8am this morning – just divine

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says Michael

A little bit of history for you from the brochure ……….

“The Kiama area was once dominated by a vast rainforest known as the Long Brush. By the time the cedar-getters arrived in the Kiama area in 1815, the local Aboriginal people would have been aware of the impending changes to their way of life. Strange and deadly diseases would have already arrived and the spread of the destruction of the bushland was certainly feared.”

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By the 1820’s Kiama was supplying 9/10ths of the Sydney Cedar Market. The round insert and reference on the map shows the tiny patch of coastline that still supports the rainforest. As you can see from the first picture the cows in the pastures along the coastline would welcome the return of some trees

“As land grants were taken up, the traditional owners were forced from their lands.”

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“Before long the magnificent forests were cleared to provide timber for the new colony, expose the volcanic soils for crops such as potatoes and wheat, and clear the way for dairy farms”*

Kiama Co-op Butter Factory

Kiama Pioneer Butter Factory – Australia’s first Dairy CO-OP opened in 1869

At the half way mark we were all starting to feel pretty confident we were going to make it

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Lynne and Michael Strong

Lynne and Michael looking confident

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as did Bev and Don

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When you see these magnificent cliffs you know have made it and you can pat yourself on the back.

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Before we knew it we had reached Werri Beach Lagoon

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and Kerrie was waiting to take us to breakfast

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and how lucky were we to avoid the queues we saw as we left ?

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after tasting the food. (Which dairy farmer chews his nails????)

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and drinking the milk shakes and lattes

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and taking in the view at the Sea Vista Cafe, Gerringong, we could understand why people were prepared to wait 

Such a special day, so many wonderful natural resources to appreciate and along the walk you may be reminded of days past,

or you may just enjoy the rolling hills, boulder beaches, sea caves, rock platforms and exposed cliffs that create the dramatic scenery and from May to June and September to November, the walk provides great vantage points for whale watching.

Michael Strong and Bev and Don Coltman

Well worth a visit we can guarantee you !!!!!!!

* BTW  You can read the history of dairying in the Illawarra here

Coles and Woolworths in the Spotlight

Its another week on the road for me doing different and exciting things every day. I am noticing in the background Colesworth are getting their share of the conversation on Twitter and in the press from all angles.

Firstly twitter is a buzz with indignation from farmers and their supporters that the big two are major sponsors of the National Farmers Federation Congress. I have some considered thoughts on that so expect a blog post later in the week on this one.

Then there is Animals Australia in the news again and the Coleworths PR machines earning their crusts piggybacking on the media circus surrounding them.

Animals Aus now their is one clever organisation organisation with seemingly endless buckets of money to fight for their ideals for animal rights. Whether their vision for animals is right or wrong I just shake my head. Its man’s inhumanity to man that is indefensible and the suffering of women and children in some third world countries just beggars belief, yet rich people and some not so rich donate millions and millions of dollars for Animals Australia Trojan horse campaigns to convince meat eaters to become vegans.  Enough said on that

Yesterday saw me back at my old alma mater Sydney University for a board meeting. This gave me the opportunity to catch up with a very special young man doing agricultural science at Sydney Uni who lives at Andrews College which was a hop skip and jump away from my board meeting venue. Though when the rain bucketed down as I was walking there it wasn’t near close enough and to top it all off I had hot pink shoes on and now I have hot pink feet.

Richie Quigley has stepped in at the last minute to a fill a gap in the Cotton Young Farming Champions team.

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The facilities at Andrews College at Sydney Uni are quite astounding. I asked Richie to pose behind the bar for this shot 

With a blog post, video and now a PowerPoint presentation and after yesterday a  two hour session with Art4Agriculture personal and professional development coach Annie Burbrook now under his belt wow does agriculture have a superstar rising fast.

Richie’s family run Quigley Farms. Check out their Facebook site here and Richie’s blog post for Art4Agriculture here. This is one family crazy about cotton and very proud to grow it in the most efficient way they can. What an inspiring afternoon I had learning all about it from Richie 

Richie as I said earlier lives at Andrews College on the Sydney Uni Campus. Andrews College is steeped in tradition and it was quite a déjà vu  moment to walk up the steps yesterday.

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There are photos of the walls showing cows in the paddocks in front of the college. Apparently in those days you could donate cows to the college to pay for your board

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Magnificent wood panelling and stained glass windows everywhere 

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Andrews College has many fond memories for me. I mentioned to Richie I had attended a formal with HT ( short for heart throb – the nickname given to Michael by my uni friends) there where the bands Airsupply and Sherbet and Andy Gibb played all on the one night. I had a feeling their albums where not in Richie’s collection.

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I just had to take a picture of this tree yesterday. This is where HT first said those three little words that make a girl’s heart sing when she knows the man of her dreams feels the same way about her. Aaaaaaaaaaaah mmh memories