Well it’s no secret that Oli and I are both quite sentimental people, particularly when it comes to our vehicles. A few weeks ago we took a trip up to my family farm to pick up a tractor, but it’s a little more than just that.
Growing up just outside Chiltern in North East Vic, I was a bit of a farm kid and spent a lot of time following dad around the paddocks. My father died suddenly when I was 9 and mum, with 4 daughters under 21 and a full time job took over running the farm. Yeah we think she’s a pretty amazing woman too! Unfortunately for her I soon became a bit of a moody teenager who had no interest in helping her out on the farm. Mum tells me now that she knew from when I was very young that I’d be a farmer. Turns out she knew me much better than I did and after a few years in Melbourne, I discovered this for my self.
There is no denying that another huge reason I farm now is to maintain a connection with Dad, even if we are from pretty different sides of the chemAG/organic farming coin, it brings me a great sense of place and meaning in the world.
So this tractor isn’t just any old tractor to me. On the back of this photo it reads ‘Ian with his new tractor’ circa 1981ish.
As Oli drove it out mums gate for the last time to load onto the truck, mum reflected on how her father had been out from England when Dad’s first tractor arrived. Papa Reuben, a market gardener himself, said in a Yorkshire accent, ‘I know how proud you feel to get your own first tractor’.
So my tractor flew along the highway at 100km/h and now resides in Harcourt. It may not have air-conditioning and all the comforts of a modern tractor, or the utility of a front end loader. But it does what we need it to do, runs like a dream and when I’m driving along with a bale on the back I look in the corner where I used to stand as a little kid, watching the road move past under the cab and it definitely brings a smile to my face. To have come so far yet ended up back at the beginning in a way.
We’ve named the tractor Ernie (Mum tells me there is a song about Ernie the horse who pulls a milk cart) to join Bert, our 1968 Toyota Stout, who runs our milking parlour and has become a bit of an icon of Sellar Farmhouse Creamery.
We own 6 Stouts between two generations. Oli’s love for the Stout started with his Dad’s 1972 model which he grew up with and learnt to drive in (still on the road).
Oli and I have Vera, our 1978 green road one, a very old one, three for parts and we bought Bert specifically as the milking ute. With a bit of initial fixing up, it’s been extremely reliable, heading out to milk every morning and moving that heavy parlour through the paddocks.
Stouts were often used as milk delivery trucks due to their low gearing. Our most recent acquisition is for parts for Bert which was the original milk truck for Woodend and has been parked in a paddock ever since. It came with all the original receipts in the glovebox from when Mr Parker of High St Woodend took delivery in 1969.
Oli and I are both so grateful for the opportunities which were given to us by our parents. While we both believe very strongly in maintaining and reusing old equipment rather than buying new, for sustainability reasons. We believe that by building connection and meaning to all that surrounds us, we are more likely to value and look after our possessions, while feeling more satisfaction and enjoyment through their use.
It means a lot to me to be farming on the family farm of Katie and her father, Merv. It feels like we’re part of something far greater and enduring. Oli has a dream of restoring Merv’s old truck to become our market truck one day.
So that’s a little of where we’ve come from, which has all directly led us to where we are now. Running our little herd of milkers up on a spectacular mountain in Harcourt. We give thanks to all those who have come before us.