Tommerup’s Dairy Farm has been named in Australia’s best of the best, and it’s all thanks to agritourism.
A few years ago, farm owners Kay and Dave Tommerup risked everything to establish their farm as an independent brand. And now, they’ve been rewarded as one of eighteen in the Australian Farmer of the Year Awards, and one of three finalists in the Innovation category.
If not for their constant innovation, Tommerup Farm would have shut its doors years ago, never becoming the beacon of sustainability it is today. Kay and Dave put this down to agritourism, a sector in need of national support if it’s going to continue helping farmers like these to grow their brands and stay afloat.
Shifting and changing
Kay and Dave Tommerup are the proud owners of a sixth-generation dairy farm located in Queensland’s Scenic Rim. It sits on 80 hectares of beautiful, fertile land, and produces quality dairy products.
Recently, Kay and Dave took the big risk to leave the milk processing brand Norco, a company their farm had been supplying to since 1984. This came after their development of a boutique dairy line in 2019, and the rise in their agritourism capabilities. The Tommerups wanted to turn away from mass production and generic flavour, focusing on a modern yet natural approach to farming.
Their love of the land, and commitment to quality, is what really stands out to customers and judges alike.
“The focus of everything we do and every experience we offer is our dairy, our farm, and our desire to build a farm business that can be taken on by our children, and their children, on this beautiful property that’s been farmed by Dave’s family since 1874,” says Kay.
“With three generations living on the family property, and Dave and I having just started our own family, dairy deregulation in 2000 came at us like a freight train. The dairy should have closed – the numbers told us so. But numbers can’t beat passion, or respect for family and tradition.”
“Dairy farming isn’t just our job, it’s who we are.”
But becoming a widely popular dairy farm and tourism location wasn’t easy. The family’s challenges reveal why Australians should promote agritourism as a necessary part of farming.
A long road
As well as being a farmer, Kay also sits on the Boards of eastAUSmilk and the Queensland Farmers Federation. But it hasn’t always been smooth sailing.
The farm continues to be affected by extreme weather conditions, supply chains dominated by massive companies, and outdated laws and regulations.
“We’ve gone from a dairy farm being propped up by tourism dollars, to a dairy farm leveraging the benefits of agritourism to add higher value to our farm product and now we have a legacy for future generations,” says Kay.
When deregulations hit in 2000, it looked like the farm wasn’t going to survive. All of Dave and Kay’s savings were gone, and milk prices were so low that they searched desperately for a secondary income stream. Enter agritourism.
In 2008, the Tommerup farm opened up for camping, animal feeding tours, and school excursions where children are taught about the importance of agriculture and innovative industrial solutions.
For a while, this seemed to solve the farm’s problems, yet they were again challenged due to the recent national droughts. Kay and Dave were forced to drop their herd numbers, launching their Jersey Girl brand. Jersey Girl is a micro-dairy producing all its own milk and cream, funded by the success of the farm’s agritourism endeavors.
While Dave and Kay are very thankful for the steps they’ve been able to take, and the farming business they’ve grown together, there’s still a long way to go. Agritourism continues to be overlooked as an important part of farming.
“As an industry, we need recognition from the government that agrotourism is farm diversification. It’s farmers using their resources and skills to build resilience in the face of a changing landscape.”
“Currently, to grow our agrotourism business, we are forced to choose between farming and tourism. Agroturism isn’t a change of use, it’s a change of mindset. It’s a change in the way we promote and value our industry, and it’s time we recognised it that way.”
However, thanks to programs such as the Australian Farmer of the Year Awards, and the Scenic Rim’s dedication to promoting agritourism, there is hope. If we can continue to push agritourism as a vital part of modern farming, places like the Tommerup farm can continue to innovate and thrive, placing them at the forefront of the contemporary industry.
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