Meet our People

Family continues farming and football tradition

Cobden’s Kevin Hinkley knows a lot about growing up in a big family on a dairy farm.

Kevin was one of 15 children raised on a farm between Colac and Camperdown. He now has seven children of his own and reckons farm life can’t be beaten when it comes to raising a family.

Kevin’s great grandparents landed in Portland from England and worked locally for many years. His father Arthur and his brothers and sisters later moved to the Colac and Camperdown areas and set up dairy farms, starting a family tradition now into its third generation.

“My father brought up all 15 kids on the dairy,” Kevin said.

Four of those children continued in the dairy industry, including Kevin who married Ellen in 1953. The couple then got their own farm at Tesbury in the Stony Rises, where they brought up five girls and two boys. Both sons, John and Mick, in turn followed the family tradition, becoming local dairy farmers. Today, John is milking 650 cows and Mick about 340.

Now 84 and long retired from farming, Kevin was chosen as one of the ‘Legendairy seven’ local dairy farmers to take part in the Cobden Spring Festival street parade in 2014.

As a supporter for the Legendairy communications initiative to enhance the profile and reputation of the dairy industry, Kevin says that the industry deserves more recognition.

“It’s a big industry,” he said. “It’s become big now; that’s the only difference as far as I can see. It’s still a good lifestyle for families and there’s still money in it if you’ve got your head screwed on the right way.”

As a fitness fanatic who still walks 90 minutes every morning and every afternoon, he’s also pleased to support the upcoming AFL Legendairy Farmer Round between Collingwood and Adelaide on April 11, which will celebrate Australia’s dairy farmers and their communities, and the connection between farming and football.

After selling his farm about 20 years ago, Kevin bought a smaller property at Bostocks Creek where he reared heifers before he and Ellen finally retired into Cobden.

“It’s all right,” he said of living in town. “But I’d sooner be out on the farm.”

He continues to maintain an active interest in the dairy industry through John and Mick’s successful dairying careers, believing there are good prospects ahead.

“If you’re dedicated to it, listen to what’s going on, see what’s going on and don’t have to bring too much extra feed through the gate, you can make a good go of it,” he said.

“I’ve always thought it’s better to grow more feed at home than bring it in, and to calve so your cows are milking when you’ve got grass in the paddocks.

“Dairy farming isn’t going to be easy today but it never was easy. The only trouble now is you need a million dollars to start and that’s a lot of money if you haven’t got it.”

Farming on the Stony Rises wasn’t easy for Kevin, but with typical farmer fortitude he never let a rocky terrain hinder his ambitions.

“There was a lot of flat country with no stones but also a lot of stone barriers,” he said.

While it was “bloody hard for a long time”, the farm and its lifestyle lived up to Kevin and Ellen’s expectations.

“It was a great life. You’ve got a chance to do what you like. It’s also quiet and I like that.”

Along with the dairy farming legacy, Kevin also started a local football and sporting legacy.

Although not a player himself, he and Ellen encouraged all their children into sport, one of the joys of life in the country.

“They all had their opportunities,” Kevin said. “I did the milking and the farm work and Ellen did the running around with the sport for our kids. We worked as a team like that.”

Mick and John both played football locally, and John went on to coach South Purrumbete to a premiership before retiring.

John’s son Matt won the Cobden golf club title when he was just 14 and Mick’s son Paul is something of a local footy VIP.

He was the only Hampden player to make the 2014 Victorian country side and recently moved to Geelong to play for the Newtown and Chilwell Football Club – but he has plans to continue the family tradition and return to dairying after pursuing his promising footy career. In the meantime, sister Natalie Tongs and her husband Greg has come home to run the farm.

This year is the first in memory that the Hinkley family doesn’t have a player in the Cobden team. John’s three children and Mick’s five all played for Cobden at some stage.