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Dutch courage pays off  

LIKE any young man leaving home for the first time, Legendairy farmer Erwin Reesink had his doubts about what he was doing. Leaving his mother and brother behind in Holland to start a new life in Australia was a huge step for an 18 year-old, but one that has paid dividends.

Just four years since making his big move, Erwin is running a South Gippsland dairy farm with his new wife Stacey, who herself arrived in South Gippsland via South Africa and New Zealand.

The couple share-farm on Len McRae’s Wattlebank property near Wonthaggi where they milk 250 cows on 100 hectares.

At just 22 and 20 years-old respectively, Erwin and Stacey have far more responsibility than most young people their age, but say the dairy lifestyle offers them opportunities that few others enjoy.

“Being your own boss is good and I love the animals,” Erwin said.

“It’s a pretty busy life with weekends as well, but if we get our work done we can have a quiet day or head off to the beach.”

For Stacey, having the opportunity to be on-farm with Erwin makes dairy life more appealing than most careers.

“It’s probably what I like about it the most. We get to spend time with each other,” she said.

Erwin wasn’t completely alone before meeting Stacey. His father Johan emigrated at the same time, along with Johan’s partner and their three children.

Johan, who now farms a few kilometres away at Middle Tarwin, always wanted to come to Australia after spending holidays here.

“It was always Dad’s dream to come here. We’d been here twice before on holiday. We really liked it and loved the country,” Erwin said.

The family had a dairy farm in north east Holland, milking 75 cows on 41 hectares. European red-tape and the inability to grow the farm business saw the family make its bold move to the southern hemisphere.

“It’s getting very hard to dairy farm over there, especially if you want to expand. It’s very strict and very complicated,” Erwin said.

“At the time, you weren’t allowed to produce any more milk than your quota and, if you did, you had to pay a penalty.”

“We could have stayed there, but there was a brighter future over here.”

The big move was an experience that he shared with millions of Dutch men and women, who followed the Reesink’s journey on a popular reality TV show called Ik Vertrek (or I’m Leaving).

The Reesink episode broke ratings records, with millions tuning in for the novelty of watching dairy farmers start a new life in a strange country.

“The show was always the same thing with people starting wineries and B&Bs in France or England,” Erwin said.

“So people were interested to see dairy farmers in Australia.”

Dairy Australia’s Legendairy campaign aims to highlight inspirational farmers, like Erwin and Stacey, who form the backbone of Australia’s $4 billion dairy industry.

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