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Farm fortune: drought does not tell the whole story

Posted on : 03 July 2019

Written by: Jarrod Samson

With the current rise in drought-stricken farmers experiencing mental health issues, many are left wondering if living and working on a farm is a safe and smart option.

While a career in agriculture can certainly have its share of bad, the good still holds plenty of promise.

Despite existing concerns, for many farmers, there is no better way to live.

Matt Cosgrove, 51, has lived on a 260-acre property in Gulgong, NSW since he was three years old.

Rural Australia is all he has ever known.

Mr Cosgrove’s enterprise is based on beef cattle production and acts as a sideline to his main source of income derived from the mining industry.

“My focus is to produce the best quality beef cattle I can with the least amount of expensive inputs possible like labour costs and chemicals,” he said.

Farm life maintains a kind of freedom separate from urban living.

“To me, the most uplifting thing is the lifestyle itself and the ability to control your own destiny, to a point, away from the pressures of the corporate world,” Mr Cosgrove said.

There is perhaps one shining light among the trials and tribulations of farming.

“I find that the hard times bring everyone in the community together, not just the farmers themselves, but the regional and urban dwellers as well,” Mr Cosgrove said.

The 51-year-old is excited to show his new partner the world he holds so dearly.

Farmers can choose the level of input they want to contribute to the industry.

While some prefer a relaxed type of operation, others go for more intensive farming.

Brendan Smith, 30, joined Minnamurra Pastoral Company (MPC) last year and currently lives on a 30,000-acre property in Wollar with his wife and three daughters.

A full-time farmer, Mr Smith finds the work natural and comforting.

MPC runs multiple enterprises including commercial cattle (straight-bred Angus) and grain production.

“The commercial beef cattle sector is our bread and butter,” he said.

“With one of the biggest and best Angus herds in NSW, we are leading this part of the industry due to what we supply.”

MPC’s upcoming expansion shows the future of farming is still bright in this country.

“We are actually in the midst of creating our very own cattle breed called Tropical Speckles to compete with the northern Australia export market,” Mr Smith said.

“It is hard work but it is also highly rewarding… not only for the company but for overall economic development as well.”

There is also something to be said about the bond between farmers.

“The people I work with are culturally diverse but I have never experienced any of the issues you might expect to find elsewhere,” he explained.

“Everyone is willing to help each other as we are all striving to be the best farmers and growers in the world – not just Australia.”

According to the 2018 Household, Income and Labour Dynamics Survey, country people are significantly happier than city dwellers.

Mr Smith has had a taste of both worlds.

“Having the opportunity to live where you work is a big thing in my mind,” he said.

“Being able to bring kids up in this lifestyle is fantastic because even if they leave home and never farm again, they already have a problem-solving mindset, a can-do attitude and a unique compassion for others.

“That is a bloody good head start for any adult in our society.”

 Applications for the JB Fairfax Award for Rural and Regional Journalism are now open. Find out more here.




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