Living out the dairy dream
South-west Victoria’s Aaron Crole sees himself as one of the lucky young dairy farmers as he lives out his dreams on the land.
And he says his parents Wayne and Vickie are fortunate in the dairy world to have two sons and their families who want to work on the family farm in Simpson, Victoria.
Aaron, 30, has been able to get a foot in the industry door by firstly working on his parents’ farm and more recently entering into a share-farming agreement with them on his grandparents’ adjoining property, milking 185 cows on a 137-hectare property.
He has three young children of his own and hopes they will follow the family tradition to create a fourth generation on the land, though he won’t be pressuring them into it.
“We were never forced as kids to do work on the farm. My brother Andrew and I went off and got a trade but we always knew we could come back onto the farm if we wanted,” he said. “I’d love to see the kids continue in farming but I’d never force them.
“My old man is lucky that his two boys wanted to work on the farm. It’s not very often that you see that.”
Aaron’s wife Cassy also grew up on a dairy farm so moving back to the industry was a natural choice.
“It’s the country life everyone dreams of,” he said. “We know what it’s about and we want to bring our kids up the same way.”
When Aaron and Cassy moved to the share farm, Andrew and his wife April returned home to work on his parents’ farm.
The arrangement is working well. Not only have Aaron and Cassy stepped up to one-third share-farming responsibilities in the past three years, he has taken on the leadership for a local dairy discussion group.
Aaron is keen to make a positive contribution to the industry and encourages others to get involved if they can.
“I’ve been with the group for four or five years and they asked me to take on the leader’s role and I said I could handle that.
“We probably average 14 attending once a month. It’s quite open discussion and self-run by the group. I’ve been to other discussion groups and they’re very formal, more of a lecture and not so much discussion. We talk among ourselves on general all-round topics.
“You see and hear things you can pick up and take back to your own farm.”
Apart from the family and lifestyle benefits of farming, Aaron revels in the challenge and fluctuations of the dairy industry and its economic and climactic influences.
“Every year is different; that’s part of the challenge that keeps it interesting.”
On a broader outlook, Aaron sees making the industry affordable to younger farmers as a major challenge.
“We’re one of the lucky ones to have family behind us and get the foot in the door. I know a lot of friends who are keen but can’t get money to get in. Generation change is a big challenge – there are a lot of older farmers trying to get out but farms aren’t selling.”
He also remains cautious about the influence of overseas markets.
“When you look at America and their financial troubles, who knows, that could come over here again,” he said.
But a return to his building trade is not on the cards as Aaron and his family have no plans to leave the industry and lifestyle that they love.
“We’re definitely staying; we’re pretty well set up with our little family kicking along and building to our own farm.”
They hope to buy cows in the next year to 18 months and move up to a 50:50 share. The ultimate goal is to own a farm.
“You’ve got to crawl before you walk, start at the bottom and work your way up. It won’t happen overnight,” Aaron said.
Aaron’s positive outlook for the industry has prompted his support for Dairy Australia’s Legendairy promotional campaign, which launched in August 2013 and is designed to build the profile and reputation of the Australian dairy industry and highlight the enormous contribution dairy farmers make to the Australian economy.
“I think it’s awesome, a real positive for the industry,” he said. “It helps to tell the townies and those from the city what dairying is really all about.”