Drawing on the wisdom of the past, working hard right now and approaching the future with versatility and innovation underpin the enduring viability of Tommerup’s Dairy Farm.
The family behind the sixth-generation small herd dairy south of Beaudesert won Innovative Farmer of the Year at The Weekly Times Coles Farmer of the Year awards in Melbourne.
Kay and Dave Tommerup made a flying visit to accept the award while their adult kids Harry, 24, and Georgia, 20, held down the fort at their Kerry Valley property.
Harry, an engineer by trade, recently returned full time to the family business. As part of helping run the farm, he is cultivating an abundant market garden and converting waste products into value-added pantry goods.
Georgia, who is in her third year of a teaching degree and working off the farm as a teacher’s aide, is also adding to the farm business by growing rows of bunched flowers for sale.
The new contributions of the farm’s sixth generation add to the boutique dairy and meat products Tommerup’s has become known for among foodies from near and far.
Kay said, while theirs had been a tale of survival since the dairy industry’s deregulation in 2000, the goal for farmers was to have a fair value placed on their product.
“It feels like survival for our dairy has been the tactic for a really long time,” she said.
“The end goal has always been that the farm is viable, not that we’re a farm propped up by tourism, but that we add value to our product with agritourism.”
Dave said innovation had become a necessity, but diversity had always been part of small farming for their family.
“Before deregulation there wasn’t really any need to innovate, because the price hadn’t dropped at that stage,” he said.
“My grandfather used to grow quite a big paddock of tomatoes when my dad was younger, so that was their other income as well as the dairy, and now we’ve gone down the track of doing other things to supplement the dairy income too.”
Kay said tradition and innovation went hand in hand.
“I think we’ve taken it back an extra two generations, where there has so many different things happening on the farm to try and make sure they had money all the time,” she said.
“We’re doing that too, so no matter what happens, whether it’s the weather or the economy or whatever, we hope something comes in and helps the other parts of the business.”