Milk of human kindness
From the tragedy of her father’s death and the devastation wrought by the milk price crash, Sallie Jones has helped create something both inspirational and meaningful for the dairy community.
The Warragul mother of three has joined with Jindivick dairy farmer Steve Ronalds to kick-start the Gippsland Jersey milk brand.
So far it’s been a raging success with consumers responding to the twin messages of backing local dairy producers and supporting those in the community who are doing it tough.
For Sallie, losing her dairy farmer father, Mike Bowen, in March last year was a devastating blow. He was a huge figure in her life, teaching her to be an independent thinker and to turn tough times into opportunities.
“He had an ability to dream big. While they were still running a dairy farm, they bought an ice-cream machine, leased a shop in Lakes Entrance and started selling ice-cream,” Sallie said.
“There was no limitation in the way I was brought up by Mum and Dad – they always thought outside the square.”
Not long after Mike died, the milk price came tumbling down, leaving many in the dairy industry struggling to stay afloat financially.
“Steve suggested that we bottle milk and use it to honour Dad,” Sallie said.
“My reason for starting Gippsland Jersey was in part to support the Ripple Effect, which is an organisation very much about smashing the stigma around mental health and farmer suicide.
“One pillar of the brand is about mental health and the other is about kindness and giving back, because when people are kind, it’s such a circuit breaker for people that are struggling mentally.”
Sallie cites the other strength of the brand as taste. She believes Jersey milk, with its high fat content, that many health conscious people are embracing, “tastes like milk used to” and can do wonders to a cappuccino.
“Baristas love it because it has high fat which, in a cup of coffee, coats the tongue and makes the coffee taste smoother,” she said.
While Gippsland Jersey has only been in shop fridges for five months, Sallie said it’s already having the impact that she and Steve had hoped for.
“We’ve been able to bring some positivity back to the dairy industry which has been so fulfilling,” she said.
“I think farmers who have been following our story have been encouraged by seeing that people are so passionate about supporting dairy farmers, and that there is so much goodwill out there from consumers wanting to support them.”