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This website aims to develop case studies of the development of farming practices and attendant transformations of local ecologies of defined blocks of land. Through these biographies of particular plots of land we are developing localised analyses of the wider historical trends in the political economy/ecology of the Northern Rivers.

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Buying and selling land, and succession

Why did you decide to sell the land that you did, like, to the Andrews, and that 27 acres?

Roly: Well, the main reason for that, we were still paying off the farm. Old Keating put the interest rates up to 21% and we were pretty short of cash.

Fay: No, not really.

Roly: We weren’t—

Fay: No, it was just that Andrews come up and offered us $15,000 for that, and that was well and truly a bargain for those days.

Roly: Yes, yes. See, we’d been renting that home out to different ones.

Fay: And we’d had a couple in there that didn’t pay their rent, knocked the place around and—

Roly: We thought rather than continue along that line we’d just sell the home and 10 acres there.

Fay: We were still buying other properties, so we thought better off to sell.

Roly: Yes, and put the money towards the sale.

Fay: So that’s what we did, paid off some of the mortgage. And the 20 odd acres, well, he just kept pestering us, pestering us to sell it for years, and eventually Role agreed to sell it, but I don’t think he should have done. I was always up against it – but, anyway, he sold it.

To a neighbouring farmer?

Fay: Yes. It was the only flat ground. He had no flat ground at all around his house or anything, where this went almost to his house and was reasonably flat. That was why he wanted it, anyway.

Roly: That piece of ground originally belonged to people by the name of Blackmans.

To think that it was time to sell, how did you start to make that sort of judgment?

Roly: Old age.

Fay: I just wasn’t well enough to keep going, and Role had had, well, it wasn’t a heart attack, but he picked up a virus around his heart, so he wasn’t supposed to be working.

Roly: Then I fell down out of a damned tip truck and broke the hip. What happened, I had the truck come in to deliver gravel, and anyway, it was a wet time and they’d knock off for a period and then they came back, and I had to go down in the truck to show them where to put the gravel, because we had a long laneway that went right down from where Kerry’s bails are there, right halfway to Nimbin, you know, through the paddock.

Anyway, I got into the truck okay, but getting out it, half the running-board was missing on the passenger side. Of course, I had my foot up inside the cabin and I missed the running step with the other foot, because the step was about that far off, because I had one foot up and one foot down on the ground. Of course, I did a sugar-doodle over backwards and—

Fay: Broke the ball off his hip.

Roly: Anyway, I had a full replacement. I’m getting to the stage where this one is starting to give me trouble, too. Anyway, that was the beginning of the end. Then we—

Fay: We were both 70, or in our 70s.

Roly: Yes. The kids were all leaving home.

Fay: They were all leaving home. They were all going to Uni and so forth.

And obviously none of them were—

Roly: Darryl would have. Darryl is just allergic to too much on the farm, in the way of dust and – he’d go mowing the lawn and he’d come out in blisters and—

Fay: All over him. You know, Paspalum grass, he was very allergic to it. Well, the farm had a lot of Paspalum grass on it. He’d mow the lawn, even where he’s living down in Grafton, if there’s any Paspalum grass and he throws a little bit up on his arm, he’s got great big blisters come up on his arm. He’s very allergic to it, and he’s allergic to a lot of other weeks. I had him tested, because when he was – what age was he – he would have been around 10 or 11. Anyway, the baby at the time, she was only a few months. He was rolling round in the weeds down in the garden with her, playing with her, no shirt on, just a pair of shorts. It didn’t hurt the baby, but he come up in blisters all over him. We couldn’t work out what – they sent him in to—

We took him down to Nimbin to the doctor, and he said, ‘Oh, he’s allergic to things. He can’t stay out on the farm. You’ll have to go in—-‘ Well, my Mum looked after him. She used to bandage him all up because all these blisters broke and he was a mess. Anyway, we took him up and had him tested, and they told us to go round like, where he was, and get as many weeds as we could. You’d be surprised how many bits of different weed we’d got, and most of the specialists we went to knew what they were. They had them all documented, about what they all were.

Anyway, about half of them, Darryl was allergic to.

What sort of weeds are you talking about?

Fay: Farmers’ friends, you know, just common weeds. Anyway, they said he just couldn’t stay on the land, he was allergic to the cattle allergic to the cat. They said we could have a dog; we couldn’t have a cat.

And did he actually have to live off the farm with your mother?

Fay: Yes, he left the farm. Well, then he went to school, Richmond River High School, and he worked with the Forestry until he retired.

So you kept, you’d stuck it out for a long time, as long as you—

Fay: —-as we could. We always had someone working for us but, still, you can’t employ enough to – and they don’t look after things the same as you look after them yourself, either. Then we tried share-farmers, because you just couldn’t sell the dairy because of the downturn and everything in the dairy industry. You just couldn’t sell a dairy farm, and we went to a couple of agents in town and they said, ‘Look, just put a share-farmer on,’ so we did that. They had good credentials – you never saw such credentials as the first one had. I rang a couple of people up that had employed him: ‘Oh, yes, he’s quite a good worker.’ So we put him on.

We found out how good he was afterwards.

Nearly send us broke. See, with his contract we couldn’t go down and take over anything. He wouldn’t buy any feed for the cattle whatsoever and it was drought conditions. We lost cattle through it.

And anyway, in the end Lisa in at Norco, she talked to some of the solicitors and that, and they said, well, there’s one way out of it. The cattle must be fed, so tell them to go ahead and order feed, buy feed in, put it half in his name, and Norco sent meal out, took it off his dairy cheque. They said, ‘As soon as we do that, he’s going to leave,’ because he said, ‘If you go buying feed, I’m leaving.’ Like, he put it over that it was us that broke the contract. Anyway, because Norco did it and took it off his cheque, well, he just left. He gave us about a week’s notice and went.

Roly: And Fay and I had to go back dairying.

Fay: We had him there for three months, and then we put another young couple on. Well, they had good credentials. He’d been working in a dairy down south and they gave him a good rap and everything, but when he came to managing the dairy on his own, he just wasn’t up to doing it.

We lost more cattle. The cattle actually got – we’d never had it before, but it was nothing to do with the amount of fertilizer you put on the ground, but you can get a poison off it. I forget what they call it now.

Roly: The grass tetany—-

Fay: The grass tetany –  and it can be caused through using too much urea and that, but we hadn’t used it, even the amount of urea that we were advised to, let alone too much. Anyway, they told him not to put it on any of the paddocks until they went round and tested them. So he just turned the cattle in on the paddocks he was told not to turn them on, didn’t he?

He had good paddocks of feed there down further away, but he was too lazy to drive the cattle over there, so we lost a lot more cattle through it. Altogether, I don’t’ know how many head of cattle we lost. They were valuable cattle, valuable registered cattle.

So anyway, that was the end of him, and he took some – Collins, I can’t think of the Christian name now, Collins up near Kyogle, anyway.

Fay: And he advertised for someone, $1000 a month, so they applied for it, so they actually broke the contract. We didn’t care. We didn’t know how we were going to get rid of them. Anyway, he put them on. Anyway, he was only there for eight or nine months and he sold everything up. He said they sent him broke.

So that was the end of them dairying up in this area. They were, well, as far as he was concerned, they got $1000 whether they did anything or not, so they didn’t do anything, did they? Didn’t even bother milking his cows, just let his cows go dry.

When you’ve got that many cattle – because I don’t know – do you have a relationship with the cattle?

Fay: You do, of course you do.

Roly: They like to be tended. They’re family.

Fay: You know every cow individually, and you know their temperament and everything else about them.

Roly: You get so friendly with the cattle, they’re like part of the family. We had them all registered and tattoos on their ears, and we knew all the family breeding, right back.

So every time there was anything like those last years when you saw them being knocked about—

Fay: Oh, it was cruel, what they did.

And when was this?

Fay: This was 2002, we put the first one on – I’m not sure of the exact date now – he come on at the end of 2002. Then we went back to working it ourselves, until Kerry bought it in June 2003. We never advertised it. Kerry come up and wanted the farm.

Roly: Just a private sale.

So you then stayed on the farm, is that right, for a little while?

Fay: Yes, we lived in the top home. We had two homes on the property. Kerry only wanted one home.

Roly: We’d already moved up into the top home, and we tried to work the dairy from up there. We’re up over the range, back on the Tuntable Creek Road.

Fay: Just here somewhere, our house. It’s a green roofed place down over a fairly steep driveway, you know, you come round that sharp corner? You’d know the house.

Are you talking about – is that now where Fiona is?

Fay: No, she’s not the home we were in. She’s in another home again. When Role’s father died in ’89, we sold the home to Del Sizemore.

Roly: He had already had three acres cut off.

Fay: That’s how Fiona come to get the three acres with it, and then Del Sizemore put it up for sale and Fiona bought it. They were looking to buy a home at the time.

Roly: They were living in our home.

Fay: And they wanted to buy their own home, so they bought the homestead back again, and that was about 2000.

So you were able just to stay–

Roly: We worked a deal out with Kerry that we had the home rent-free for five years initially. We worked a deal out with him. We had it rent-free for five years, so we paid no rent—

Fay: And at the end of the five years Kerry was supposed to pay us out and he couldn’t sell his block of ground he wanted to sell to pay us out, so he said, ‘Well, you can have another two years interest free.’ We jumped at it. Suited us.

Roly: We stayed on for another couple of years.

Fay: He went on just paying his interest on his money.

And what was he doing on the farm at the time?

Roly: He was dairying.

Fay: Yes, dairying. He started off dairying. Then I don’t know what happened, he closed the dairy down. We were away. I was in hospital, don’t know where, when he closed the dairy down, but he closed it down all at once. Something happened, and he took the cattle out to Woodlawn. No, they were already out there.

That was his own herd – and then he brought some of his own herd over and milked it with our Guernseys, and then when he closed the farm down, he took the whole lot back to Woodlawn, and then he started up the goats and got into the cheese-making, and now he’s putting up another dairy.

Roly: Well, he’s putting it up on what was our big yard that we used to bring the cattle in initially. The dairy where he’s making the cheese. We had seven cows either side. Anyway, they put a false floor over it and turned all that into the refrigeration area. That’s where we used to milk up to 130 cows there, twice a day.

Fay: 160 I think was our top we ever got to.

How many people did you have working? Did you have people working with you when you were milking 160?

Fay: Yes, but we only used to have one person working for us. There’s about 14 machines.

Roly: There was only work there for two people in the milking.

Fay: One could work the machines on their own if they needed to. It took a bit of keeping up with, but with 14 machines, you know, two was better.

 

 

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