Page 11 - Food & Drink March 2020
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Steve Ronalds and Sallie Jones are dairy farming their own way.
good come from it. I didn’t know that it was, but I knew a new chapter was going to be written.”
The day after her dad died, Jones went to see Ronalds. Sitting in his living room, Ronalds still in a great deal of pain from his accident, the two hatched a plan.
“There was something therapeutic about getting my feet on the ground and being surrounded by beautiful cows. I said to Steve, let’s start a brand. Back then he had 250 jersey cows and we thought, well, we’ve got the milk.
“So, we were sitting in his living room, two broken people, talking about starting our own milk brand, when I noticed he
The first pillar for Gippsland Jersey is the guarantee that dairy farmers will be paid a fair price for the work that they do.
Jones says respect for the industry needs to be rebuilt, here and overseas.
“In Australia, milk is cheaper than water. That is madness and it has to change,” she says.
Ronalds and Jones want dairy farmers to develop a more collaborative mindset as well as one looking at growth.
“Farmers are so busy just doing what they do well, they don’t have time to get out and about and advocate for themselves, when in reality they are the ones with all
the power.
“They have the very thing the dairy processors want and need, but as my dad said, they are still the price takers not setters.
“There is power in numbers and if we can help build those networks to demand a fair price for the work done, we’ve achieved our goal,” Jones says.
She is also frustrated with those in food service, particularly cafés, that are willing to add five or six cents to their price to cover a cost of a disposable cup,
The second pillar is a commitment to suicide prevention and reducing the stigma around men’s mental health. Jones believes that if there wasn’t so much stigma attached to having a mental health problem her father would still be alive.
One part of this is the Gipplsand Jersey Calendar. Each month features a dairy farmer who tells their mental health story. The calendars are then distributed to farms throughout the region.
“We all want to know we’re like someone else and that we’re not alone. Everyone knows someone in the calendar and the results have been mind-blowing. One of the guys profiled has had six other farmers come to him saying they’re not ok. Just by creating the platform has made men more willing to talk and ask
for help.”
Jones says the farmers
profiled have also formed a bond and support each other.
“It is the power of storytelling. I’m just so blown away with their generosity and kindness towards each other.”
had a hole in the sole of his sock. “I went on Instagram and
said, let’s see if we can get this farmer a new pair of socks.”
Jones says the project was the antidote to her grief.
“I channelled all of it into the brand. I realised everything I learnt growing up on the farm, every opportunity I had working with my dad, led me to this. I never would have thought about doing it if I hadn’t had him. He was a pioneer and risk taker.
“Dad believed you could never make any money by supplying a milk company because dairy farmers are price takers not price setters.
“He invested in the notion of value-adding to the business years before anyone else.
“He’d never cooked a meal in his life but decided making ice cream would be a good idea. His Riviera Ice Cream was a huge success and won many awards over the years.
“I realised that what Dad gave me was self-belief .”
In September 2016, Ronalds and Jones officially launched GipplsandJersey atWarragul Farmers’ Markets. Jones says they had no idea how it would sell.
“We didn’t know we had a market. We thought, let’s take 5000 litres and see how we go. We sold out.”
Jones says they are indebted to the independent supermarkets in the region who supported them from thebeginning.
Gippsland Jersey is now also stocked in around 40 Woolworths stores, paying the same price as everyone else, Jones says. “There is no discount for them, they’re doing the right thing.”
“We’ve had to be creative. Neither of us had any money, so social media has played a huge part in building brand awareness. But on social media, you have to be authentic and tell your story as it unfolds; people have loved that about us.
“That doesn’t mean it is not without trials and tribulations.
The dairy industry is pretty cut-throat, very male dominated and conservative.
“As much as people want to support us, there are some who would love to see us go down.
“But we intuitively know and genuinely believe that what we’re doing is for the greater good of our region and for the Australian dairy industry.”
The pair didn’t have a strategic plan, they still don’t, but they have three very clear pillars that underpin the brand.
but won’t consider doing the same for premium milk from a local farmer-owned brand.
“I talk to coffee shops and point out that premium quality milk will make their coffee taste so much better. But they can’t wrap their heads around it.”
Jones says there are only
38 independent dairy farmers left in Australia.
“If we don’t get the message out there to support them, these family farms will just cease to exist,” she says.
“ I realised everything I learnt growing up on the farm, every opportunity I had working with my dad, led me to this. I never would have thought about doing it if I hadn’t had him. He was a pioneer and risk taker.” | March 2020 | Food&Drink business | 11

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