When Percy and Tina Middlebrook arrived to begin a new life in the Gloucester district in 1928, they could never have imagined that the following generations would continue the tradition of dairying. Nor that their young great grand-daughter is now literally walking in Tina’s footsteps. The fourth generation is co-managing the expanded property, with great granddaughter Olivia working alongside her dad, Trevor.
Percy passed away when Trevor’s dad was only six, “It left my grandmother to run the farm with three young children through the Depression.” Tina’s two sons continued dairying; one was Trevor’s dad, Alan. Alan and his brother took over the reigns and followed in the footsteps of their father. And it continues today.
Trevor says, “We formed a family company when I was 22.” His parents offered him shares to keep him on the farm! “I have been entrenched in the business since then.”
The Bowman Farm dairy became well known in the industry, thanks to the foresight of Trevor, who has remained heavily involved in state and private dairying boards over many years. “I could see the direction being taken and that de-regulation was inevitable.” As a consequence they wisely developed a strategy for the future.
As Olivia grew up in this family farm atmosphere, a passion for the lifestyle developed. After completing the Higher School Certificate in 2008, she worked on the farm for a year. But pressure built until eventually, “It all became too much, living here and working here, it was a very rushed decision, and I was gone!” Her break included six months living in Sydney and a year overseas. But while she was there, the appeal of the farm beckoned and she cheerfully returned to live the life she enjoys.
It is not a decision she has ever regretted. “I did Certificates II, III and IV in Agriculture through TAFE." She is also studying a farm management course. “Apart from the time I was away, basically I’ve been doing part-time study since I finished the HSC.”
Olivia says that she and her dad have different areas of expertise, “I’m much more focused on the herd side of it.” Breeding, herd health and the rearing of calves are her main interests, though naturally there is an overlapping of tasks. Her brother Tom has also joined the family dynasty in the past year. Tom is concentrating on the pasture and cropping, which gives Trevor more time for the overall management of the farm.
Naturally family relationships can be tested when they live and work together in such close proximity; with intermittent ‘debates’ creating surface friction. Trevor adds, “I’ve got the best leveller on earth and it’s my wife Kelly.” She has seen the problems of the past, and guides him from similar mistakes with their children.
Trevor says, “You don’t go into dairying to be a rich person, you do it for the love of it.” His attitude has certainly been passed on to Olivia. Since the age of 20, she has been determined to persist with dairying on the property. “I would never leave here.” At 25, Oliva has decided that this is her life of contentment.
Trevor is very proud of his daughter, but stressed it isn’t something he forced on Olivia, it was always her choice. Trevor and Kelly made a conscious decision. “We’ve never gone out and forced them to do what they do or don’t want. It was mainly so they would not feel obligated to stay.”
With Olivia’s willpower, strong work ethic and effective breeding program, the dairy herd has grown to almost 450 cows which are milked twice daily. Her aim is to increase this to 500 milking cows by June next year.
They both admit there are difficult days working closely as father and daughter, but there are benefits. Olivia says, “There are advantages to living and working on a family farm. Dad gives us the opportunity to learn from mistakes and get some confidence. It’s just a lovely environment to be in.”
Trevor added, “When we have arguments, it breaks my heart. But it’s great working with your family. They’ve done it all on their own will and merits. Seeing them develop, I get a lot of satisfaction out of it.”
Olivia is a confident young woman who offers reassurance that the dairy industry is being safely handed over to an enterprising younger generation of the Middlebrook family, and Trevor can, in time, look forward to a well-earned extended holiday with Kelly.