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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.

Go to: Early family history | Involvement with the Catholic Church | History from the 1950s | Dairying | Frank’s education | The history of the Bridge and naming of Boyle Road | Changes in the local area from the 1970s | Frank and Andrea meet | Moving out of dairying | Farmers’ markets | Rice | Raising awareness of food production | The future and the food movement | Farm forestry | Work ethic | The House

Dairying

And so they would have been part of Norco? Were they?

Frank: Yeah or, or supplied Norco.

And so, would milk tankers come up Boyle Road, once they started getting into liquid milk production, do you remember any of that?

Frank:  We didn’t do bulk milk here ‘til the ‘80s. We used to produce cream. I remember the cream truck. As a kid, well that was our main, as a kid from sort of 5 till, 15 maybe those years I remember sort of, you know, cans of cream and separators and cleaning the separator and meeting the cream, cream lorry and having cans of cream on the back of the tractor. So the cream truck used to do the run and this road used to, every farm was a dairy farm. This farm had three dairies on it, at, in the early days.

And there’s still one? At the end of Boyle Road?

Frank: There’s one at the end of Boyle Road and Greg McNamara, who’s the chairman of Norco now. He’s got a farm up further, and there’s another one just past the school on the other side of the creek, the Channon.

Not many though?

Frank: No. Well I sort of quote this story, this farm is 900 acres, the original farm here was 900 acres. It used to support three dairies, that were owned by people. Three separate people and they were farmed by a share-farmer. So that’s six families and all those were good Catholic families, so had lots of children. So this 900 acres probably used to support 30 or 40 people; and now it’s flat out to support two families, two small families.

That’s your family and ….

Frank: My mum and dad.

Andrea: And they used to employ people too didn’t they? They were labourers.

So in the 1950s your dad’s dairying and his brother?

Frank: Yes.

When did he get married?

Frank: Fifty years ago, fifty years ago last year. Fifty nine probably.

And stayed here with your uncle Michael?

Frank:  Yeah. Yeah, he stayed… yeah. He lived…

Andrea: He lived with his mum. He died the week we got married. … In ’89.

Frank: He was a bachelor.

So you grew up then dairying as a kid?

Frank: Well as a kid we grew up dairying. We always had pigs. And we had small crops. Bananas and beans and sort of grew some more crops as well.

At that stage were other people coming in to do any labour or… was it mostly family and kids?

Frank: Mostly family but, we did have mum and dad …. When we were younger before we could work. Slaves … [laughs] there were staff, there were guys that I do remember, I think they used to have one … or two labourers just as they needed them. I remember two of them … the last guy I still know, well his Bob Fowler and I sort of remember him and he’s still around and I know his son and he was permanent; they were here all the time.

And so where are you in the family? Did you have to do chores after school and all of that stuff?

Frank: All the time. Yeah.

Because the thing about dairying is that it can be really intense, can’t it? There’s set times that you have to do it and it’s continuous and its everyday of the year, even Christmas… all of that kind of thing. And then how people actually spend time in the middle… can change can’t it? A lot of people will be doing fencing and growing small crops, and doing other stuff. And other people will be drinking tea on the verandah … [all laugh]. What was your experience?

Frank: growing small crops … fencing … yeah we were out all the time. We had beef cattle as well … yeah we did have a few beef cattle. But yeah we always used to do stuff.

Andrea: Drenching. I remember that was a big deal even when I was around.

Frank: Yeah.

So who were you selling the small crops to? What was happening with those?

Frank: Most of it was going to the markets in Sydney. The Flemington Markets. Little, not very much. Dad used to take a few around, just to the little green grocer around town, most of it was going to Sydney. Back to the economics of it,  when I was probably 15, a crop of beans which is grown up on the hill there in say 3/8, 1 hectare of land, the money that they were able to make out of that was able to buy a new tractor. A brand new tractor. These days you can’t even begin to think.

Andrea: Pay the diesel …

Frank: Yeah.

There’s a lot of kind of infrastructure and things that change in the fifties and sixties too. You know you were talking about separators, but things becoming electrical. Changes in hygiene … all of that sort of stuff. It becomes more and more expensive to maintain all of those things and so do you remember very much of that? You know just changes in the way that you actually were dairying … when you were growing up?

Frank: The big change was when we went to bulk milk, from cream to bulk milk. Um, that was a huge change and I don’t know whether we were one of the last to do that as a family here, as a property. I don’t know why we were one of the last farms to go to bulk milk. And that was a big cost, we had to put all new, sort of refrigerated milk vat. Because up til then the cream wasn’t refrigerated. They’d pick it up every two days.

And it would just be in a cool room. Like in a cool area, it was never refrigerated. So just not only purchasing that gear, the running of it, the electricity and the upgrading of the electricity. So it was a big. That was probably one of the big constraints at the time, why they didn’t change as soon, because of the cost. Once we got into milk the hygiene changes were incredible how much cleaner everything had to be. And the milk had to be strained, and in the end I think that’s what really sort of got dad why he went out of dairying, ‘cause it was just, the rules and regulations were getting a bit, just too difficult to abide by. It was 1989 we stopped milking . We just got married 24 years ago, and I wasn’t keen.

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