FARM LIFE: The Freeman family at their Brooklands property.
FARM LIFE: The Freeman family at their Brooklands property. Rhiannon Tuffield

The battle to keep young blood in agriculture

SOUTH Burnett farmers are doing what they can to keep young blood in the agricultural industry.

Beef producer Maldon Goodger, 78, hopes to semi-retire in the coming months and is slowly passing part of the property on to his 45-year-old son.

Mr Goodger said his son was enthusiastic but needed a stable income to support his family of four.

"We're only mainly cattle so there's not quite enough on the property," Mr Goodger said.

"He's had to work at the mines for that financial security, so at least he'll have something to fall back on if things don't work out."

The Goodger family is one of many trying to reverse a youth exodus from farming.

The UN World Health Organisation predicts by 2030, six out of every 10 people will live in a city, as more young people turn their back on a rural career.

According to South Burnett farmers, the ongoing struggle of unpredictable weather paired with the fight to make a living has discouraged children from entering the agricultural industry.

Some said they have even had to find a second income to sustain the work they do on the land.

Beef producer Kayleen Freeman and her husband have a property at Coolabunia and Brooklands, where they also grow grain and fodder.

The farming pair are both part time teachers and hope to encourage their three children to take on rural careers.

Mrs Freeman is passionate about keeping the community alive and has worked tirelessly to inspire her own students to remain in the country.

"We need to nurture these young kids and make them passionate about their communities," she said.

"They have to feel there's a future for them."

In order to survive, she said it was important for youth to have diverse qualifications and skills so their income could be supplemented by alternate industries.

"I believe if we can show youth that there is a viable future in Agricultural industries we will have a chance to grow sustainable rural communities that can grow the food for the future," she said.

Mrs Freeman's children have lived their lives on the farm and have all helped out from a young age.

Her son Karl has spent a lot of time rounding up cattle, ploughing paddocks and has travelled to bigger cities to showcase cattle.

At just 20 years old he has already finished a diesel fitting apprenticeship and now has a small herd of stud angus he attends to at the weekends.

"He has always had a burning desire to be on the land and I think it is genetic," Mrs Freeman said.

"He has seen the tough times and knows he needs alternate qualifications."

Mrs Freeman said many youth were concerned about their viability in the industry, especially if they had not inherited a productive asset.

For income security, she said it was important to create opportunities through agribusiness and tourism and utilise technology, especially when the seasons were not favourable.

South Burnett

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