by Lauren Petersen 2016 e-Leaders Grow, Innovate and Sustain Program participant
Sharing Stories of Sustainability | Dairy Industry
If someone had of told me that I would one day be a dairy farmer – I wouldn’t have believed you! Neither would any of my friends or family have believed that farming would become such a big part of my life.
I grew up in Melbourne. My partner and I moved to Ballarat when I was promoted to a Supervisory role at Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority (ESTA), working with Police Emergency 000. After 10 years in this role, I continue to work for ESTA one night shift per week. It is an important role to me and I enjoy staying involved.
My partner, Tony, and I, have two children, 18 month old Audrey and 3 year old Paddy. We are busy trying to build a profitable and sustainable dairy farming enterprise. We started our business two and half years ago when we bought 30 cows from the local saleyards and started leasing a small farm in Cobden, South West Victoria.
We have slowly built up our herd and have moved to a larger lease farm of 315acres and milk 140 cows. Throughout this time Tony has also worked full time off-farm in Emergency Services and whilst we have learnt to live on not much sleep, we love what we do and this keeps us going.
The past twelve months have been extremely hard in the dairy industry. We have been directly affected by the ”Milk Crisis”. I was part of the NRWC e-Leaders program in 2015 and jumped at the opportunity to undertake the 2016 e-Leaders Grow, Innovate and Sustain Program.
My project has a whole farming system approach. It includes investigating and developing a composting and cropping program to improve our soil biology and reduce the use of synthetic fertilisers whilst increasing pasture growth and improving quality.
We want to move away from a system that is dependent on synthetic fertilisers, and if I can convince Tony - hopefully one day - organic farming will be on the radar! We have recently switched milk companies and look forward to a fresh start. I plan to establish an earthworm trial as well as reviewing our trees and vegetation to complement our farming system and local catchment management issues, create shelter belts and remnant vegetation to provide shelter for livestock, encourage diversity amongst animals and improve pasture growth and therefore production. At the end of the day, improving the soil and pasture quality will increase production of our milk and improve the health of our cows.
I learnt a great deal from the e-Leaders program speakers and the practical planning tools have been a great help. My fellow e-Leaders have taught me so much.
They inspire me to keep going on a bad day and reach for the stars on a good day. The connections I made with the original e-leaders are long lasting and these connection have opened many other doors to further opportunities.
My project can be frustrating at times as the results will be evident long term rather than immediately. However, I look forward to reflecting in six months’ time when we have our field day – where we will share the project with other local farmers and service providers.
Having children makes you see things in a different light. I am more aware of our connection to the land and the importance of sustainable farming so that our kids may have a future in farming one day. I have a heightened appreciation of the value of good food for healthy minds and bodies.