Page 10 - Food & Drink March 2020
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Driving the herd
called an overpayment for milk already delivered.
The impact was devastating, leaving many dairy farmers in crippling debt and little option but to walk away. Within a year, Australia’s milk production was at a record 21-year low.
While Ronalds grappled with a $170,000 debt, he had a motorbike accident that left him with multiple broken bones and a long, painful recovery. It was eight months before he could milk his herd again.
Meanwhile, Jones’s parents were facing their own challenges. They were getting older, still caring for their severely autistic son and facing economic strain from the milk crisis. They decided to lease the farm and move into town.
“Dad lost his identity and struggled to see where he fitted
anymore. He didn’t know how to enjoy himself. He didn’t have any interests or hobbies because he'd just worked for eighteen hours a day since he was thirteen years old,” Jones told Food & Drink Business.
In April 2016, five months after Ronalds’ motorbike accident, Jones’s dad, Michael Bowen, took his own life.
“Two weeks before dad died,
I asked him if he was suicidal. He just looked at me and in hindsight I know that was him saying yes. But at that time, you didn’t go there. Now I know you do. You’re meant to ask the questions. To dig deeper and to not be afraid.”
In the aftermath, Jones says she was determined there was “no way in hell” that was how he was going to be remembered.
“I needed to make something
In one of Australia’s largest dairy regions, two friends were having a very tough time. With indomitable spirit, Sallie Jones and Steve Ronalds decided to fight
for their livelihood and community their own way. Premium dairy brand Gippsland Jersey is the result. Kim Berry speaks with Sallie Jones.
SALLIE Jones is a third- generation dairy farmer, growing up as a free-range kid on the family farm in Lakes Entrance. Steve Ronalds is the fifth generation in his family, and the third to be farming his Jindivick property, established by his great great-grandfather in 1895.
In 2015, the two largest milk processors in Australia at the time – Murray Goulburn Co-operative and Fonterra – slashed the farm gate price for milk to below the cost of production. Murray Goulburn also imposed retrospective price reductions demanding farmers reimburse it for what it
10 | Food&Drink business | March 2020 |

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