‘A backstage pass to our farm’: Small-scale dairy operation opens up to guests
There is a saying in Australian agriculture — "get big or get out".
But one family in Queensland says it is proof small farms can be profitable.
Kay and Dave Tommerup have one of the smallest commercial dairy herds in Queensland.
"In a room full of dairy farmers, it's like you're a complete joke," Ms Tommerup said.
"Before we were ashamed of it, but now we've got a business that's successful, and it doesn't matter that we milk 47 cows, we're doing it the way we want to and we're proud of it."
The dairy at Kerry, in the Scenic Rim an hour from Brisbane, was profitable until the introduction of dairy deregulation which saw their milk price halve overnight.
Mr Tommerup worried he would lose the 80-hectare farm that had been in the family since 1874.
"It's a very big responsibility to have a fifth-generational farm where you wouldn't want to lose it."
"So we tried everything we could to make it work and keep it going."
Ms Tommerup's idea was to feed the milk seconds they were throwing out to livestock.
They bought heritage pigs and fed on their bobby calves to produce yearling beef.
They also added free-range chickens and a farm shop where they sell their produce.
Individually each operation made slim returns, but profits jumped with the addition of day tours and farm accommodation.
"It's crazy, we can't believe how busy it is that people would want to pay money to come here and stay on our farm, it blows us away," Ms Tommerup said.
Mr Tommerup said children love feeding the pigs, collecting eggs, visiting the dairy, and being allowed to get dirty.
"They don't want to go home," he said.
"People say, 'We've had the best time, thank you for sharing your farm with us', and that's a pretty good reward," Ms Tommerup said.
"We're trying to give them a backstage pass to our farm and show them what they wouldn't see if they were patting a few animals at a petting zoo."
Dairy company Norco said the small volume the Tommerups supply is secondary to the impact they are making.
"They're helping educate consumers to understand where our food comes from," Norco's marketing manager Ben Menzies said.
"Kay demonstrates that the world of just males within the industry has certainly gone."
Mr Tommerup said his wife's contribution is extraordinary, given she was an office worker with no background in agriculture when they met.
"Kay's a very good role model in anything that she does," he said.
"She's just got the inspiration of just a 'get in there, get it done' attitude, I'm sure lots of other women can take a leaf out of her book, maybe men even."
Rather than be a role model to women, Ms Tommerup prefers to be seen as an ambassador for small family farms.
"No, they're not dying out, they're coming back," she said.
"I really think people want to have that connection with the person that grew their food."