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A vision for good dairy farming land

James Toohey might have been blind but he had a good vision for the dairy farming land he settled near Casino in 1907.

James couldn’t see the land but his wife Rose-Anne described the undulating country, running creek and Scotch thistles and he knew it would make a good farm.

They selected and named it Padua Park, cleared it for farming and 110 years later their great-grandson Terry Toohey continues to enjoy its benefits.

James was 37 when he purchased the land and the thistles were a deciding factor. “There’s an old-time saying that Scotch thistles only grow in good country, so they selected this area and developed it,” Terry said.

“He was totally blind but managed to keep farming. How they did it with what they had in those days was a mighty feat.”

The farm, 10 kilometres west of Casino has expanded over the years to 160 hectares where Terry and his wife Annabelle and their children Hannah 18, Lily 15 and Jacob 12, milk 300 Holstein cows.

“It’s still good farming land,” Terry said. “We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t.”

Padua Park has some notable history; it was the first farm in the region with a tractor and the farm house was once partially destroyed by a mini tornado, but it continues to provide a profitable base and enjoyable lifestyle for the family.

Fourth generation dairy farmer Terry says he “wouldn’t swap it for the world”.

Terry spent more than a decade as a stock and station agent but was keen to return to the land. “I wanted to work for myself and give my family the same opportunity to experience the rural life that I had,” he said. 

Terry became involved in farming representation about 12 years ago. He was on the Australian Dairy Farmers board and its animal health and welfare group. He chaired a cross commodity board for the National Farmers Federation, joined the Cattle Council of Australia, was on ministerial-appointed agriculture boards, and is Dairy Connect’s Farmers’ Group Representative.

“Dairy Connect came about because dairy farmers wanted united representation just for their interests,” he said. “We’re now the only organisation in Australia with a paddock-to-plate board including processor representatives and the grocery/retail sector.”

Now in his late 40s, Terry places a strong emphasis on planning for the future using technology and innovation. “We’ve got to think outside the square and develop policies for the younger generation,” he said. 

He wants to maintain a collective bargaining group with his processor Parmalat, and is pushing for the value of milk to be maintained on the domestic market.

Terry sees a bright future for the industry in northern New South Wales, particularly as people move to the region for lifestyle reasons. “More people are here to drink milk,” he said. “New South Wales is one of the most profitable dairy industries in Australia.”

He supports the concept of Legendairy to raise the profile and reputation of the dairy industry and thinks people are responding.

“Consumers voted against $1 milk and instead purchased private label milk because they can see the benefits for the farmers,” he said. “People appreciate farmers and didn’t go for the cheapest product.

“The dairy industry is proud of what we do.”

Terry also hopes to get agriculture back on the school curriculum and is involved with Dairy Australia’s Cows Create Careers program in Casino’s public school. 

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