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Posted: Mar 3 2018, 09:12 AM
Group: Featured Blogers
Member No.: 17
Joined: 17-January 12
Rep: 143 pts
Meet the family defying the odds in its transition to organic farming
By Margot Kelly
Photo: The farm has been in the Frankcombe family for over five decades. (ABC News: Margot Kelly)
In a time of multinational takeovers, one dairy farming family is defying the odds to keep its farm going for generations to come.
In the green rolling hills of Tasmania's north-west is the Mt Ellie property— a modest 350-head farm which has been in the Frankcombe family for five generations.
But while the fertile soils and high rainfall make it an ideal place to produce top-quality milk, a few years ago the farm was struggling to break even financially.
Instead of cashing it all in, the family decided to pursue a better price for their milk by converting to organics.
It was a risk, but farmer Kevin Frankcombe said it had already paid off.
Photo: Kevin Frankcombe oversees the day-to-day operations of the farm. (ABC News: Margot Kelly)
"I feel like we've turned the corner. We were struggling to do what we were doing the last couple of years," Mr Francombe said.
Last month the operation officially received its organic certification, which Kevin said the family had been anxiously "hanging out for".
It's around a three-year conversion process, as the farm transitions away from using conventional farm chemicals.
But the challenge has energised the family, with Kevin's three children coming into their own by finding different roles on the farm.
Rebekah Frankcombe manages the dairy side of the operation.
Photo: Rebekah oversees the dairy operation. (ABC News: Margot Kelly)
"I sort of find it a little bit empowering that I have control over what goes in the vat and what we actually produce into the milk and the other dairy products. I have a little bit of ownership over it," Rebekah said.
From time to time her brother Emmett helps out with the dairy side of the operation, but he mostly oversees fertilisation.
Photo: Emmett Frankcombe helps out around the property. (ABC News: Margot Kelly)
In the conversion to organic, the family has had to swap to organic kelp fertiliser.
"It's a bit smelly but it works well … it goes all right. There's not really a lot of options you can use going organic. Some of them are quite expensive, but this stuff is not too bad," he said.
"It works well [and] we are getting some good grass from it."
And 25-year-old John has been the one responsible for keeping the farm on track.
It's all the more impressive because John requires 24-hour care.
Photo: John has muscular dystrophy. He is pictured with his niece and nephew Hurley Young and Emerson Redman. (ABC News: Margot Kelly)
John has muscular dystrophy, a degenerative disease which has left him with only minimal movement of one hand.
With the help of interactive technology and a motorised wheelchair, he helps run the farm as the "finance guy".
"He is like the '2IC' [second-in-charge]. The go-to bloke for all things money," Rebekah said.
John uses a surprisingly simple set-up to manage all the accounts. Using a smart TV and a simple remote, John completes all the book work.
"Having him on the farm is no different. If you took the chair away it would just be like the next worker. He is just like Emmett and myself," Rebekah said.
"He is just the driving force that keeps things happening behind the scenes in that he keeps pushing us in the right direction."
Meanwhile, his dad, Kevin, provides much of his care while also overseeing the farm.
Photo: His dad Kevin calls John the "finance guy". (ABC News: Margot Kelly)
Although the transition to organic has brought its own challenges, Kevin said having the family involved in the day-to-day operations has made it all worthwhile.
"It's changed my enthusiasm for the farm and how I think about it I'm just so pleased," Kevin said.
Expenses can easily skyrocket with costly organic feed and greater outlay for herd health care compounded by a typical decline in milk volumes during the first few seasons.
"You can go over the top and spend heaps of money, but we've stayed pretty much the same," John said.
The move towards organics is something John is pleased with.
"It's exciting. It's good to sit back and think about how long we've been here and we've got another generation coming along after us. And leave the place better off at the end," he said.
Photo: The family hopes the transition to organics will keep the farm going for generations to come. (ABC News: Tony King)
A wonderful story, and one of many that come out of our rural communities. I personally wish the family every continued success over the coming years.
“If life were predictable it would cease to be life, and be without flavor.” - Eleanor Roosevelt
“All of life is peaks and valleys. Don’t let the peaks get too high and the valleys too low.” - John Wooden
Posted: Mar 3 2018, 09:19 AM
Group: Active Member
Member No.: 53
Joined: 13-March 12
Rep: 10 pts
Well done to the Frankcombe family, going organic can be a huge challenge, especially when dealing with animal health. I hope they continue to do well and that they are well rewarded financially for the risks they have taken in going organic.
Posted: Mar 3 2018, 09:57 AM
Member No.: 3
Joined: 21-July 11
Rep: 66 pts
Yes I wish them well.
Sound like a great family pulling together.
Everybody is Willing:
Some are willing to work, the rest are willing to let them!
The older I get, the better I was.
Posted: Mar 3 2018, 10:19 AM
Member No.: 1
Joined: 20-July 11
Rep: 47 pts
There are arms around here that have ageing owners with no one in the family that wants to take it over.. I guess that is why so many are converting to Macadamia trees.
Living In An Elected Dictatorship
Flin's opinions and comments reflect his perception of the facts and not necessarily reality
Posted: Mar 3 2018, 03:52 PM
Group: Active Member
Member No.: 11
Joined: 20-December 11
Rep: 48 pts
My best wishes
Posted: Mar 3 2018, 05:19 PM
Group: Active Member
Member No.: 16
Joined: 17-January 12
Rep: 33 pts
A great story, and a worthy enterprise. I sincerely hope that it continues to go they way they hope that it will. And, what a great family that are really pulling together! 👍
Live as if the world were as it should be, to show how it could be.
If what we do doesn't matter, then the only thing that matters is what we do.