Strathmerton dairy farmer Greg Brooks likes to look beyond the farmgate and stand up for his industry.

Greg says he could “take the easy route and just focus on his farm in difficult times, but he sees the bigger picture and understands the long-term value of protecting private enterprise dairy farming”.

Greg feels he has a better understanding of the world around him and his own community after completing the Fairley Leadership Program in 2019 with the support of Gardiner Dairy Foundation.

Already embedded in the community as president of the local United Dairyfarmers of Victoria branch and school council, Greg says strong leadership is vital for the future of the dairy industry.

“We need leaders to represent farmers,” he said. That’s why I wanted to do the course. We need to give power back to the farmers.”

Greg moved to Strathmerton in 2006 where he and wife Jodi run their Bromac dairy business, named for Brooks McCormack (Jodi’s maiden name). They milk about 300 mostly Holstein cows on 160 hectares.

The farm has bores so they don’t often need to buy water, but to avoid any potential cost increases they’ve cut back on herd numbers this year.

“The cost of water is astronomical – the numbers wouldn’t add up,” Greg said. “We’re better off with a few less cows, even with what they call a reasonable milk price.”

With four children at school, Greg was asked to join the school council and has been president for the past four years. He is also president of the tennis club, was on the football-netball club committee and squash club committee and recently stepped up to the role of UDV local branch president.

Enlightening experience

The Fairley leadership program was a new and enlightening experience for Greg.

“It was the first time I’ve done anything like this, and it exposed me to all the different areas in our community and speakers from a range of backgrounds.

“We’ve all got our own perception of things, but this gave us a better understanding of our broader communities, along with the hidden benefit of building relationships with new people.

“I now have a better understanding of my leadership roles and how you can’t always push an agenda but need to understand all views.”

A farmer at heart, Greg wants to see the industry prosper and family farms flourish.

“Farms going out of business is not good for the industry or the community,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve seen a benefit of anything that’s gone into corporate control but I think there are a lot of benefits in owner-operated businesses.

“If I generate more income, most of it spreads back through the community. If farmers invest in their farm or employ another person, it compounds in local community benefits.”

At 52 Greg hopes to keep farming and that his children will further develop their interest in the business.

Positive image

“Our kids have a positive image of what we do, and I think that’s important,” he said. “I’m never disparaging about what we do; I hold it in high regard. I think country communities hold farmers who do a good job in high regard. I’m not sure those in the bigger cities truly understand it.”

Greg said he wouldn’t have been able to do the program without Gardiner Dairy Foundation scholarship.

“You have to get someone to cover you on the farm and having the cost of the program on top of that would have made it too difficult,” he said.

He’s now encouraging other dairy farmers to seek a scholarship for the leadership program.

“I’ve spoken to younger farmers with leadership potential and I’ll keep in contact with them about doing it,” he said. “To have more people from our background of private enterprise and farming in leadership roles would be good for everyone.”

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