Dairy farmers are the lifeblood of local communities, giving their time and energy to support everything from agricultural societies to volunteer fire brigades.
Jason Smith is often the youngest member of community groups, but he looks at that as a learning experience.
“Volunteering is a large part of my life and it’s a great way to meet people,” Jason says. “I run 530 acres, 300 cows and 200 young stock by myself so getting to some of these meetings is tough, but I’ve always had to notion that if you’re going to complain about something, you should get in and do it.”
A member of Lions clubs since he was 18 and now the youngest in Simpsons Lions Club by about 30 years, Jason is happy to learn history and the spirit of giving back to your local community from his fellow members, mostly retired dairy farmers
“We’re very proactive from maintaining Lions Park and helping with fire recovery, to chopping wood and raising money for charities,” he says.
Jason joined the UDV when he went out farming on his own 13 years ago and served as secretary and vice-president during stints with Cohuna, Corangamite and Colac groups.
“That’s an amazing way to learn about the industry and how to run organisations and advocate for farmers. I encourage other young people to get involved; the problem is that those who do, spread themselves too thin.”
While at school Jason started on the Cohuna and Echuca agricultural show committees and continued for many years. He now exhibits, sponsors and helps wherever possible at the Heytesbury and Camperdown shows and exhibits at Noorat.
Jason has been part of the former Young Dairy Development Program and now Young Dairy Network for about 15 years and has raised more than $9000 by running a trivia night to support Aussie Helpers, Blaze Aid and Timboon Agricultural Project.
An advocate for mental health, Jason’s next project is donating a heifer to Dolly’s Dream to raffle to raise funds for the anti-bullying program.
Jason also mentors new farmers, including one young woman who has just started a share farming role.
While reducing some commitments to concentrate on Lions, he has no plans to wind back. “I really enjoy giving but I get a lot back out of it through the connections you make. We need to help each other to maintain these community events.”