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Together, we’re passing the torch to the next dairying generation

  • June 09, 2021
  • 4 min read

A generation ago, young people in country Victoria would have likely stayed on their parents' farms, taking the reins on running the day-to-day and eventually taking it over completely.

These days, it’s a different story.

Terry Place, one of our farmers in Cobden, southwest Victoria, has over 100 years of dairy experience running through his family – his grandparents arrived in 1919, and they’ve been milking cows ever since. Terry says some farmers would love their family to come back on the farm, but it’s not necessarily a lifestyle they want.

The Place family farm is based at Pomborneit near the Stoney Rises — a rocky land well known for its stone wall fences. Terry and Jo have been on the farm for almost 30 years, with Terry’s brothers also farming in the local area and Jo having grown up on one.

Together, they’ve seen a number of great successes over the years, including being named Best Employer at the 2018 Great Southwest Dairy Awards.

These days however, it feels like the younger generation has been enticed by the thought of something easier elsewhere – attracted by the lights and sounds of the big city. But with the COVID-19 pandemic seeing most Melburnians cooped up in their homes, there is a trend towards people coming home or moving to the country.

“In the past 18 months I think people have realised it isn’t quite so bad here,” continues Terry. We haven’t had the same restrictions as Melbourne, it hasn’t hit us quite as bad. I think a lot of people are seeing that in the country it’s a lot freer and that’s spurring on a movement back to the country.”

Terry and Jo’s son, Grant, returned to the farm in 2014. He followed this storyline to a tee: he became a builder, moved to the city, and, although it was before the pandemic, he decided that moving back to the farm might be just the lifestyle change he and his family needed. 

“Grant grew up on the farm here, he got a trade – he got into building – and he went away and did that for a while. Later, he said he wouldn’t mind coming back and things have gone from there. He’s done a fantastic job. It’s made things a lot easier for us,” Terry adds.

“You work long hours, but it’s a good life if you have children – you get to be there for them more and it’s a great lifestyle once you’re up and running.”

Terry also explains that it’s not just those who grew up on farms who are best placed to run them. Even those with a bit of interest in running one can get into it if they like.

“If you’re not brought up on a farm there’s a lot of learning, he explains. “But there’s plenty of educational courses out there, from Dairy Australia and the government to name a few, for those interested in the lifestyle.”

Since Grant returned to the farm, the Places have worked with Fonterra’s Farm Source team to develop a succession plan and make sure that Grant had all the resources and help needed to hit the ground running. “Through Farm Source, we’re getting the assistance we need to help facilitate the transition,” says Jo.

Stefanie Blake is one of our Farm Source Area Managers in southwest Victoria and says that Farm Source can offer farmers assistance in many areas, and succession planning is just one example.

“It’s all about growing together and leaning on each other for help and support,” she says.

“Terry and Jo have been long-term farmers of ours, and we’ve been able to help them plan their future so that Grant is in pole position to provide excellent dairy for years to come.”