From desperation to pride

Kiama dairy takes punt on production


Australian Dairyfarmer News
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"It's now a passion to make great produce that reflects our farm, our ethics, our soil, our cattle, and our way of life."

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PROUD: Mahlah and Kel Grey at the ticket launch of the South Coast Food and Wine Festival.

PROUD: Mahlah and Kel Grey at the ticket launch of the South Coast Food and Wine Festival.

After 160 years dairying on the same farm, the Grey family in Kiama, NSW, were desperate.

"We were backed into a corner financially," Kel Grey said. "We had eight months to do something or the bank was winding us up."

The Grey family felt they had nothing to lose, borrowed a little more from the bank, and began selling milk and gelato they produced.

That was six years ago. They've stayed on the family farm, and their business is growing alongside their family. Mr Grey is still unflinchingly honest about the challenges facing dairy farmers.

"On days like today [at the launch of the South Coast Food and Wine Festival], it's absolutely worth it," he said.

"When it's the end of the month and the bank manager is ringing me, or it's 4.30am and I'm standing in the pouring rain, not so much. But over the past few months we've had more good days than bad, so we're hoping it's going to get better and better."

They've moved from desperation to pride - and taken another leap of faith.

"It's now a passion to make great produce that reflects our farm, our ethics, our soil, our cattle, and our way of life," Mr Grey said.

"That's where the passion for cheese has come from.

"Transitioning into cheese has been quite hard because we're trying to do very traditional cheese making, which creates a volatile product. Last year was actually harder than the first year.

"When you don't get it right, it's not sell-able, so you lose that product, and there's also a lag time between when you make it and when you sell it, and that affects your cash flow."

Mr Grey said he enjoyed being a sixth generation farmer, and the responsibility that came with it, but he took a long road to get there.

"I didn't come out of school and onto the farm, I travelled around the world for years, and when I came back I found the appreciation for being there again."

Dairy Australia senior industry analyst John Droppert said Australian dairy farmersweare reaching the end of what has been an exceptionally challenging season, but positive signs were emerging, despite negativity about the industry from many farmers.

"This is the sixth consecutive year of declining sentiment nationally and a majority of farmers now feel negative about the future of the industry in all dairying regions except Tasmania," Mr Droppert said.

"This is to be expected given the difficulties of recent years and should tick upwards if better conditions translate into improved profitability.

"Farmers feel more confident about their own operations."

This article first appeared in Smart Farmer. See the full July edition of Smart Farmer here.

The story From desperation to pride first appeared on The Land.

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