Over at the Burn family’s 1100-acre farm, located 39 kilometres east of Deniliquin, bordering Blighty in New South Wales, the effects of the drought are not so obvious on the surface, but Jo Burn says it’s one of the most noticeable changes in her 17 years of farming.
“Looking out our window, I see green grass, thanks to recent autumn rain, which is key to the success of our business. We make money when we make our own feed, but we are at risk when we rely on a volatile feed market. Currently there’s no-one in our area making close to what they need in feed due to the lack of water. They’re all buying it,” Jo says. “Our current volume of rainfall is not sufficient to support the amount we need on an annual basis to produce close to six million litres of milk per year. What we need is surface and groundwater access.”
Jo and her husband Phil are long-standing suppliers to Riverina Fresh. When Jo made the sea change to Deniliquin to join Phil and his family’s farm in 2002, the area was thriving with dairy farmers because of its close proximity to grain, fodder, and irrigation. These days, Jo says the future of the farm is reliant on the progression of the Murray Darling Basin, one of the largest and most complex river systems in Australia.
“We are in drier times, which is why an irrigation district was set up in our country. But unfortunately there’s lots of politics behind the management of water, inconsistencies, and miscommunication. It’s extremely complex.”
What’s clear, however, is Jo’s line of communication to Rob and the team at Riverina Fresh, and the coffee industry she and Phil have come to love and support.
“When we joined Riverina Fresh as suppliers in 2010, we had a family meeting and decided to put our faith in Rob and the team and his bold idea to focus a key part of our supply to the specialty coffee industry. It’s turned out to be the right decision for our farming future,” Jo says.
Jo is a full time mother to Mitchell, 3, and Daniel, 7, and a passionate farmer. The hours are long, the labour is hard, but she and Phil are happy to continue their farming passion with support from Australian consumers.
“We are proud of our product. It’s a reflection of our hard work, and if it isn’t supported, farms will continue to disappear under financial pressure. We control so much on this side of the farm gate but we’d love to see more people understand the work involved in dairy production,” Jo says.
“We hope people see the value in supporting regional communities and farming families, so that people can continue to enjoy high-quality Australian produced milk and food well into the future.”
This article originally appeared in the October 2019 edition of BeanScene.