Remember when the calendar would flip over to September and the buds would appear on fruit trees as if by magic overnight, firmly declaring the arrival of spring? Winters were once predictably cold and wet – yet in 2023 our winter was the warmest since official records began in 1910 – with an increase of 1.53C above our long-term average. Our rainfall in 2022 was 3 times higher than normal, causing major damage to our laneways, pastures and surrounding roads
Our Climate is changing, as is the landscape, the economy and even our community – which I believe, is the way of the world in general. The physical changes are often the ones we notice first, because they’re obvious and sometimes concerning. But the deeper changes, the less obvious ones are often more important.
Something has shifted for us – as farmers, as individuals and as a business. We started out because we felt we at least had to try. As the 6th generation dairy farmers, it felt like we should probably keep the ball rolling in that direction. Dairying is and will continue to be something we are very passionate about and we’re so grateful to have been afforded the privilege to live this life. We have learned so much – not just about food production and farming systems, but about who we are and what is important to us and why. We have come so far and have so much still to learn but as we reflect on the last decade of being in business we are acutely reminded of the challenges of the last 5 years in particular.
In 2019 we lost power 14 times, each time losing product, productivity, and sleep – often staying up all night to run the generator off the tractor just to keep the freezer and cool rooms going. We reached our limit and decided to pursue funding for much needed energy upgrades which thankfully we were able to integrate the following year with help of skilled project managers and the DPI. Having our own solar and battery system has been life, or at least sleep, saving.
But the summer of 2019 – with the constant fire threat as smoke filled out skies, locking the cows up and hand feeding to try and preserve pastures in severe drought. Watching as our friends battled to keep homes, farm and business going. Knowing we had 2 weeks before we would be selling cows. Then, relief when the rains came. Quickly turning to disbelief as we rolled into Covid lockdowns of 2020. Trying to navigate the unknown, online shops and farm pick up, finding solutions and trying to remain afloat. We started making Cheddar because we couldn’t move enough other products when all the restaurants shut down. We held on for dear life and found hope in Regenerative Farming. Things came good, we bought a shop at the start of 2021 – only to plunged back into lockdowns and home schooling, council delays, and then – finally – we were open. We prayed for the best.
In 2022 it rained and rained. AND RAINED. We watched again as floods devastated the farming communities up and down the coast. Our laneways washed away completely and we made the decision to drop the cows down to once a day milking – walking them home in knee deep mud was unfair and unsafe. Again, we applied for funding to fix the laneways, feeling guilty that we even had to ask for help as it seemed others needed it more than us. All the while knowing we were running out of options.
2023 has just felt hard. Not because we’re facing fires, or pandemics of floods. But because things have shifted. Accumulated pressure. Economic pressure. Family pressure. Despite having incredibly encouraging staff, customers and community, we are tired. Deeply tired. We never went into farming thinking it was going to be a walk in the park. Likewise, we’re not ones to shy away from hard work and challenges. But we want to create something up here that we can share with you all, and to do that – we first need to rest.
Our plan in 2024 was to have a proper seasonal break – drying the cows off over winter and starting production again come spring. But like the change we’re witnessing in the seasons, our plans are changing too.
We’re going to stop milking cows at Christmas. They’re currently out with the bull – with calving due to start end of August. We’re going to give them an 8 month break, give ourselves a break and, ideally, create some space to let our intentions flow. We’ve got big plans. They include you. They include you being on farm with us. And that is super exciting.
But first – we rest. Just enough to catch our breath and enjoy some time with the kids and our friends (sorry we’ve been non exsistent friends) For the first time in 170 years no cows will be milked at The Pines on Christmas day.
What does that mean for the rest of summer?! WHAT ABOUT THE CHEESE AND GELATO!??
We’re making a lot of gelato right now, to see us through the next couple of months. And after that we’ll still be making a small amount, just not using our own milk for a short time.
We won’t be making much cheese during those 8 months, BUT we’re loading up for Christmas and have a large amount of our Pearl and Three Daughter Cheddar stacked away in our cheese silo to see us through the break.
Yoghurt, unfortunately, is off the menu for a while.
Changes – they’re happening everywhere and can be hard to face. They bring sadness, sometimes frustration and unacceptance. But they hold so much potential for growth, for hope, and for joy. From everyone here at The Pines, we wish you a safe, happy and very slow start to Christmas morning this year. We look forward to seeing you on farm in 2024