The city-country divide is no longer an abstract notion for Queensland dairy farmers Kay and Dave Tommerup since they diversified and opened their farm to agritourism.
We all know children’s minds are magical but few things are as mysterious as their notions of where their food comes from. Their ideas of spaghetti from a tree, yoghurt as a plant product and meat that comes pre-packed in polystyrene containers are as alarming as they are cute. As for milk, well, apparently, many city kids insist that it comes in cartons. From the supermarket. Or a tap. Nothing to do with cows.
Since Dave and Kay Tommerup have been opening their farm for tours and farmstays, they’ve heard multiple versions of what goes on inside children’s heads. They’ve had city parents practically drag their children away from their PlayStations so they can physically show their children that milk comes from a cow’s udder and that it’s always white (ie not chocolate-flavoured if it comes from a brown cow).
“A generation ago, most city people had country cousins,” Dave observes. “But with our increasing urbanisation that’s no longer the case, so it’s little wonder that people are becoming increasingly disconnected from their food producers.”
While the Tommerups’ decision to do their bit to bridge the gap was inspired by their need to diversify to supplement the farm’s income in the wake of the deregulation of the dairy industry and the ensuing supermarket milk price war, they say the move has been enriching for both them and their visitors.
Kay and Dave’s children, Harry, 13, and Georgia, nine, are the sixth generation of the Tommerup family to run their property at Kerry in the remote and beautiful Lost World Valley of south-eastern Queensland. Dave’s great-great-grandfather, Matthew Horan, settled in the valley in 1874 and there has been a dairy on the farm ever since.
After the floods in 1887, the Horans moved out of their original slab hut on the farm and built the district’s first sawn-timber homestead on a hillside site well above the high-water mark. Dave’s parents still live in that house, though its detached kitchen has been moved to the other side of the dairy and converted into a guest cottage where the Tommerups now welcome paying visitors who want to extend their farm experience to overnight and longer stays.
The original story was published in Australian Country issue 15.5. For more updated stories, subscribe to our magazine here.
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Words Kirsty McKenzie
Photography Ken Brass