Latecomer to dairy now holds Tasmania’s top job
For someone who admits to being a latecomer to dairy, Symon Jones has made a quick ascension through the industry ranks.
Symon was recently elected as chairman of DairyTas, a role he relishes as an opportunity to contribute to the industry he loves.
The Gunn’s Plains farmer from north-west Tasmania wanted to become a farmer from an early age but dairying wasn’t initially on his mind.
Despite being raised in town, Symon got involved in competitive horse riding and every school holiday would work on farms. “If I wasn’t in a shearing shed I’d be picking potatoes,” he said.
After school he learnt shearing as a trade, took on a farming apprenticeship and then studied as a farrier and in animal production at Hawkesbury Agricultural College.
After returning to Tasmania, Symon worked as a trainee auctioneer and agent before a friend suggested giving dairy a go.
“It was a chance to go farming, so that’s what I did,” he said.
Symon started as a dairy herd manager and then tried two share farming options which didn’t work out as well as he’d hoped.
Later he went into an equity partnership with one of his early employers and he never looked back. He now owns the 157 hectare farm and has grown the herd from 120 to 500 crossbreed cows that supply Fonterra.
Symon and his wife Louise have been able to grow the farm without huge investment in new infrastructure.
“We’ve been 23 years on this farm and still have the same dairy.”
He joined the Board of DairyTas two years ago, adding to his previous industry connections with the Department of Primary Industries and the Fonterra Suppliers Board.
“I wanted to be involved to understand how the industry works,” he said.
“I’m not an academic or scholar of any kind but I’ve been able to educate myself practically and academically through wider industry involvement. From someone who knew nothing, it’s been a satisfying journey to learn and become a professional.”
Symon believes that the 10 per cent growth achieved last year by Tasmanian dairy can be continued. “There’s a lot of scope to grow,” he said. “The processors have invested heavily and we will continue to encourage growth to fill their capacity.
Symon said DairyTas aimed to develop programs to improve dairy farming systems and environmental sustainability and give more exposure to the industry in school programs
He’s a big supporter of the Legendairy communications initiative to raise the profile and reputation of the industry.
“It’s invaluable in making sure we’re getting the message across to all age groups that dairying is a rewarding, flexible and wealth building career,” he said. “There’s still a bit of a disconnect between the town and country and we’re trying to bridge that gap.”
At 50 Symon is still enjoying farming and is active as farm manager; although his family now share time between the farm and a beach property.
“It’s not an easy road but today dairying is a rewarding and viable career with a balanced lifestyle.
“I enjoy the paddock work and seeing good healthy cows. It’s something I’ve grown to love from something I didn’t know anything about.”