Introducing Jo Bear, Farmer and Mother, Loddon Vale, Victoria.
I live on a 4000 ha farm with my husband Greg and our 3 young boys. We also farm with Greg’s brother Graeme and his wife Rosina and their 2 children.
Our children are the 4th generation of Bears to live on the property and last year we celebrated 100 years of farming here. I grew up on a farm 40kms south of where I live now. My parents still live on this farm which has been in the Twigg family for over 100 years.
The Bear’s farm is on the Loddon River flood plains and also on the Murray Goulburn irrigation system. We are predominantly a sheep enterprise with both wool and lamb production.
Most of our dry land pasture is native grasslands and we have some of the more significant remnant Plains grasslands in northern Victoria. In respect of these grasslands and our location of being on a flood plain we are passionate about enhancing these native swards. We have knocked down a lot of our levee banks and practise strategic grazing and regularly monitor our pastures. Over the past 5 years we have seen a dramatic improvement in both the diversity of plant species and reduction in bare ground. This is testament to the effectiveness of strategic grazing.
I trained as a Vet working in the rural area for over 15 years before deciding to work on our farm instead.
My passions are
- Encouraging agriculture in schools – Over the past 3 years I have worked with our local primary school to create a school garden. This garden incorporates not only vegetable growing but also the concept of using nature for free creative play. I am hopeful that introducing fun, creative gardening at a young age will then encourage these young people to continue into an agricultural stream as they go into secondary school. Schools are now becoming the community hub of rural areas. If we can implement creative, positive agricultural programs at the school level then it becomes a strong positive influence for our whole community.
- To be locally sufficient in both Food and Energy – I would love our local community (100 km radius) to be totally sufficient with food and water. If food could be grown for local consumption then it would encourage quality, it would encourage stronger relationships between people, encourage small businesses to develop, provide opportunity for young people to stay in the area. Good food connects people. I am involved in organizing a workshop to promote these ideals. (see flyer)
What is the best lifestyle factor of farming?
I have land I can do any enterprise or venture that I want to do. It is only my imagination, passion and enthusiasm that are the limiting factors.
The freedom of space that allows me to Be.
The knowledge that I could be self sufficient and not reliant on anyone if need be.
What do I foresee as the biggest short term challenge?
Reduced pride, self confidence, dignity and respect of farmers.
The loss of the love for our profession and for our product.
This reduced pride and love contributes to the export of our young, intelligent, free-thinking, creative people out of our rural areas. We need to believe and talk about farming in a positive, enthusiastic and dignified way and so that our young people genuinely believe that being on farms is a real option for them where they can fulfill their passions and dreams.
“Romancing the next generation is the ultimate test of Sustainability” Joel Salatin
What is the long term challenge?
To change the emphasis that:
– a farm that makes the most monetary return is considered the most successful and the passions and dreams and happiness of farmers are over-ruled by how much money is to be made.
– farmers are encouraged to get bigger to survive, to buy out their neighbours, to have an asset that is worth too much for the next generation to buy.
– the deteriorating health of the soil, waterways, communities, families, the individual and their associated costs are not taken into serious consideration.
Lack of Diversity – lack of diversity of people in rural communities, lack of diversity in plant and animal species
What do you wish non-farmers / city people & the Australian Government understood about farming. What message would you like to put on a billboard in Collins Street?
I think farming is the best profession in the world and I am so fortunate to have lived nearly all my life on a farm and that my children can also live on her.
Rather than trying to get city people to understand, I wish that many more farming people could truly appreciate how lucky and privileged we are. We can make a reasonable income living in an environment that is safe, quiet and community-minded. Many city people would love to live in the country.
On a Billboard in Collins St……..
“Come and Live in the Country. It satisfies the very core of your being”