Fam­ily mat­ters farm­ing

Are ru­ral jobs re­ally grow­ing?

Central and North Burnett Times - - FENCE POST - Jack Lawrie jack.lawrie@cnbtimes.com.au PHO­TOS: JACK LAWRIE

ON the farms out near Monto, there’s a cou­ple of types of agri­cul­tural jobs. There’s fam­ily work to help out with odd jobs, and con­tract­ing dur­ing labour-in­ten­sive times such as the crop­ping and har­vest­ing pe­ri­ods.

Bill Avis, a third gen­er­a­tion farmer, said he hadn’t seen much growth in terms of agri­cul­tural jobs in the area.

“There’d prob­a­bly be a growth in beef cat­tle be­cause we’ve lost our dairy and tim­ber in­dus­try,” Mr Avis said.

Mr Avis mostly re­lies on sup­port from his fam­ily.

“My son re­cently bought a farm up here and he’s handy, so if I want to get some­thing done I go to him to ask for a hand and he does the same for me,” he said.

Re­cently, Aus­tralian Bu­reau of Statistics fig­ures re­vealed theWide Bay area was re­spon­si­ble for em­ploy­ing the largest num­ber of peo­ple in agri­cul­tural jobs in Queens­land.

Wide Bay em­ploys 20.68% of Queens­land’s agri­cul­tural em­ploy­ees, which has in­creased by 15% over the past five years.

But in the North Burnett, the idea of agri­cul­tural jobs takes on a dif­fer­ent mean­ing.

When it isn’t fam­ily work, farm­ers will look for con­tract help from other farm­ers.

Last year, due to the floods, a lot of farm­ers in the re­gion had to do con­tract work to make ends meet as they could not work their own farms.

Mr Avis said it was hard to get work­ers for odd jobs since most farm­ers tended to be busy with their own work.

“I used to do hay and it was al­most im­pos­si­ble to get peo­ple to come and help cart hay,” he said.

“Ev­ery­one was busy; the kids had other in­ter­ests and I had to buy an ac­cu­mu­la­tor so I could do the lot my­self.”

While Mr Avis is for­tu­nate in that his son is avail­able to help, there is a gen­er­a­tion gap of some (though not all) young peo­ple in the North Burnett that grow up in an agri­cul­tural town, but then leave to pur­sue other in­ter­ests once they fin­ish school.

“I think kids that are in­ter­ested in agri­cul­ture will prob­a­bly stay and help around their par­ents farm un­til dad can help them af­ford a farm of their own,” Mr Avis said.

“But then you have the other guys that want to go to the city, do a bit of uni and get a job.”

Queens­land Farm­ers Fed­er­a­tion pres­i­dent Stu­art Ar­mitage said the fu­ture was look­ing up for the agri­cul­ture in­dus­try as a whole.

“Grow­ing farm busi­nesses have a greater need for new tech­nolo­gies and in­no­va­tions, and can open up new job op­por­tu­ni­ties,” Mr Ar­mitage said.

In the North Burnett area, such op­por­tu­ni­ties de­pend on lo­cal busi­nesses and in­dus­tries propped up by agri­cul­tural work.

With peo­ple mov­ing from farm to farm to help out fam­ily mem­bers or con­tract them­selves out, it isn’t nec­es­sar­ily adding to the to­tal num­ber of jobs. For third gen­er­a­tion farm­ers like Bill Avis, it’s un­clear whether that will amount to long term growth in jobs for the next gen­er­a­tion of farm­ers.

THIRD GEN­ER­A­TION: Bill and Beryl Avis see agri­cul­tural jobs in a dif­fer­ent light to statistics.

The farm has been in the fam­ily since 1923.

Agri­cul­tural economies sup­port other in­dus­tries.

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