Despite seemingly green pastures, Kangaroo Valley’s farmers are struggling against the tight grip of what’s been called the driest period in living memory.
(min cost $8)
Login or signup to continue reading
Dairy farming has always been a prominent feature of the valley, and each of the farms have been family owned and operated for generations.
Located on the scenic drive into Kangaroo Valley, the third-generation Chittick Holstein is one of these farms.
Gavin Chittick took over from his father five years ago, and said the drought had taken a serious hold on the community.
“Our whole farm is terrible, you look out and see the green grass and think it’s not that bad, but it is,” he said.
“Dad said this is the worst dry spell he can ever remember.”
Dairy farming forms the basis of the rich culture and history in Kangaroo Valley, and a group of locals are doing their best to preserve that.
Mark McLeannan, along with Frank Barker and Andrew Hambrook, have started the Kangaroo Valley Agricultural Support Fund, in an effort to preserve and assist the dairy farming culture in the valley.
“There are five long-time family dairy farms that make Kangaroo Valley the place that it is,” Mark said.
“These farms are a real sense of pride for this community and we know that it is a very tough gig.
“Everyone cares and everyone wants to help so that’s what we’ve decided to do.”
The fund has been set up as a sub-branch of the Lions Club and will assist in funding agricultural projects in the valley.
Our whole farm is terrible, you look out and see the green grass and think it’s not that bad, but it is.- Gavin Chittick
“Before we decided to do this we spoke to all the dairy farmers and they are reticent to take money from people, so we decided this was the best way to go about things,” Mark said.
“People can donate and then, if the farmers need it, they can take it, and if not the money can be used for other projects that boost agriculture here in the valley.”
Projects could include control of Parramatta Grass, which is difficult to control, and extremely detrimental to dairy farming.
Gavin said it was heartwarming to see how much the community cared about him, and other dairy farmers in the valley.
“It’s is really nice that people here look out for each other and care so much about us farmers,” he said.
But like a lot of other farmers, Gavin has a hard time accepting help.
“This drought has put a lot of pressure on us, when you’re working hard and not making any money it can really drain on you,” he said.
“But I think I’d feel a bit guilty accepting money because I know people have it a lot worse than us.”
Mark said that mentality was why an agricultural fund would work so well in Kangaroo Valley.
“If the rain comes before Spring, our farmers will be okay and things can change pretty quickly,” he said.
“But when the rain will come is the million dollar question.
“If it doesn’t come before Spring the money is there to help them, and, if the rain does come and they start making a good flow of money, they are free to put that back into the fund to support other projects.”
At the moment, Gavin is milking 330 dairy cows, and with hay and grain prices rising, things are only getting harder.
“We were paying $300 a tonne for hay and overnight that rose to $500, grain did the same and jumped from $300 to $550,” he said.
Mark said the community had shown huge support already, and not just in the form of cash donations.
“We’ve had people offering labour, food, things like videography, and we sent someone over to Gavin’s farm the other day to fix a few potholes,” he said.
“Everyone really cares and they are trying to help out in whatever way they can.”
For more information about the project and how you can help, email email@example.com.
To make a tax deductible donation to the Kangaroo Valley Agricultural Fund, transfer to BSB: 633 000 ACC NUMBER: 139 378 632.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.