In Boolarra, central Gippsland, Victoria, a family-run dairy farm has become a gateway for primary and secondary school students to explore the world of dairy and agriculture.
Fonterra farmer suppliers, Matt and Nadine Gleeson, have a passion for sharing knowledge and have generously opened their farm to visitors for the last six years. It’s their way of building an understanding of milk production, helping educate their local community, and highlighting the many career opportunities available in regional areas.
Matt and Nadine, who tend to a herd of 520 dairy cows, said they have welcomed more than 100 school children to their farm this year to discover more about milk.
“Our first excursion was arranged with our daughter’s kindergarten, and has grown from there. It’s a way to help younger children understand that dairy doesn’t just come from the shop, and that there’s a whole process behind it,” Nadine said.
“If we can encourage them to eat more nutritional dairy foods and drink more milk, then that’s even better,” she added.
Grade 3/4 students from Immaculate Heart of Mary School (St Mary’s Primary School), Newborough, spent the day visiting Matt and Nadine’s farm, starting a term-long investigation into the dairy industry.
Matt understands the importance of staying connected with the community, especially living in a small town.
“Working with schools is a great way to engage our community with what we do,” Matt said.
“We’re proud of our farm, that’s part of it as well. We make the time for school groups to share the cycle of what we go through each year,” he said.
For Matt, the purpose extends beyond educating children solely about dairy farming, it’s also about a broader understanding of agriculture.
“Each child will take something different away from the visit. Some might like the cows, others will love sitting in the tractor, or some will want to watch the milk truck come in.”
“The important outcome is that it starts a conversation at home, they see agriculture and the different types of jobs it leads to,” he said.
Working with Fonterra's Farm Source team in Gippsland, Matt and Nadine can extend the experience for children who visit. Fonterra supplies cheese products and samples to help create a connection between the farm, the cows, and the dairy products they see on the supermarket shelves.
"Matt and Nadine are great people making positive contributions to their community. We’re happy to support them and help tell the story of dairy from both sides of the farmgate,” Mick West, Fonterra Farm Source Area Manager said.
“It’s just a small thing but it’s rewarding to see the kids snacking on cheese knowing they’ve seen where it comes from,” he said.
The Gleesons' commitment to supporting education and growing awareness of the dairy industry is helping to shape a future generation that understands, appreciates, and one day might consider a career in farming.
Matt Gleeson’s family have been farming for five generations. Matt continues to be an active voice in the dairy industry and has held roles such as the Chair of GippsDairy.