In my blog posts I have covered many components which make up Sellar Farmhouse Creamery. I haven’t yet talked about the amazing humans who bring my crazy dreams to fruition. So as we come to the end of our second year of both milk production and a global pandemic which has seen struggles in every unsuspecting corner of the community, I’d like to take this moment to mention those whose energy and love make this dairy possible.
The countless farmers who have taught me invaluable lessons, grown the feed, sold me the cows, provided the bulls and supported me, even when they often think I’m mad.
My family for their life time of support without which I never would have arrived where I have.
My community and customers who encourage and hold me when things are rough and celebrate with me, and the cows, when things go well.
Our greater Co-op community here on farm. We’ve been through a lot together these last three and a half years. Members have come and gone, hair has been pulled, bodies hugged, tears shed, laughs had, the best food in the world eaten, systems constantly changed and every time I walk over to our shared space and hear the laughter of others I’m so incredibly grateful to be engaging in this seriously vulnerable business of small scale farming along side other like minded folk.
Obviously, thanks go to my other half – Oli. With no life ambitions to become a dairy farmer he has helped me build my dreams every step of the way, literally. He built all our infrastructure including the pasteuriser, and regularly gets dragged in for jobs I need a hand with: many Stout-loads of feed collected, utes unbogged, tractors unbogged, furnace wood cut, paddocks slashed, equipment fixed, stories of cow adventures listened to.
And then my wonderful staff, without whom I may have completely lost my marbles by now. For the past two years I have had a relief milker do Friday mornings for me and from time to time two days in a row so I can get further afield. Finding someone who I can trust to hand over my herd to is not easy. Being this size and new into the business I can’t justify employing someone for more than a day a week: however, training someone from scratch might take six months plus before I can be confident that they will observe if something is wrong, with a cow or system, and then know the right course of action to take. To integrate into my herd and be boss lady; to run a mobile milking parlour surrounded by orchard and market garden, to deal with break outs when they happen, (I don’t want to come up to the farm just because the cows are eating the broccoli) and being confident to push the cows around is really important.
After only a few months of milk production, Bridget started to work with us. I actually started the same week with Bridget at Holy Goat back in 2013. She came with an animal science degree, experience on multiple dairies and in the same dairy factory which shaped many of my systems. Bridget set the bar very high. Others at the co-op regularly heard me say when I arrived on Friday afternoons ‘Bridget’s awesome, everything’s done, clean, where I like it’. I should mention that I’m a very pedantic person: having someone I can instruct once and from then on find the tasks done exactly how I’d requested is a dream. Many of you locals will remember Bridget from markets last year, you would have seen her belly grow. Bridget and Micheal gave birth to Fletcher in September. She worked up until August, stopping bottle washing shortly before as her belly was in the way. We are very hopeful that Bridget is just on maternity leave and will return some day. For now she is still involved by adjisting my heifers on their 15 acres so as to free up more pasture here for my milkers. Fingers crossed this will be the start of a future dairy interest for Fletcher: I’m always scheming.
Bridget told me very early on that she was going to be leaving which left me with ample time to find her replacement. I was just about to advertise for this role when my friend and fellow dairy schemer, Mel asked if she could have the role; sometimes things just fall into place. I was able to have a good 4 months of training before Mel smoothly took over from Bridget. Mel also comes with previous dairy and agriculture experience and with a herd of her own milking goats. So once again I counted myself lucky. Having an employee who is planning to one day open their own dairy is a great asset as there is a real vested interest there to understand the systems. Watch this space for when Mel gets her mad dreams up at running.
It’s also nice having people to talk to about the animals. As they are really my extended family, I could spend all day talking about their personalities, who did what today etc, not super interesting to most folk but this is something which brings me great enjoyment being able to share with Bridget and Mel.
I’ve been lucky again to have a young woman, Meg start with me this last week. As she’s still at high school she’s going to be bottle washing and feeding out for me one afternoon a week. Hopefully this role will be able to grow over time and the memories of working with these beautiful creatures will stay with her for a life time.
I’m sure there are many people I’ve missed. To anyone who thinks that’s them, then thank you. From the bottom of Berta’s heart, thank you all. May the grass grow, the milk flow and the dairy maids unite.