Community rallies together
WHAT better way to launch an innovative community event for the region’s farmer than a classic bacon and egg breakfast provided by the Heathcote Lions Club.
Washed down by the Cafe2U van, providing that caffeine hit to make sure all participants were bright-eyed and bushy tailed.
About 80 rural producers, their families and some employees turned up for the early morning gathering.
Heathcote and District Community Bank company secretary Hannah Thomson said the event began at 8am with major sponsor Rural Bank helping cover the cost of the morning’s catering.
“It was a free event and Heathcote’s community bank worked with Rural Bank to pick up all expenses and that made it an easy event to attend,” Hannah said.
“Our branch manager Michael Prowse, who was MC for the occasion, began the formal proceedings at 8.45am,” she said.
“Our first guest speaker was Alexandra Gartmann – chief executive of Rural Bank – while Sherrie Coote from Heathcote Film Festival presented two short films.
“One of those movies was about farming and had been filmed in Colbinabbin.
“Sherrie and husband Tony supplied all the audio visual equipment for the event as well as their time setting up and manning the equipment.”
Hannah said after morning tea Peter Strange – the men’s health nurse from Bendigo Community Health – spoke on the very topical issues of farmer/ men’s health.
She said all speakers were well received by the audience.
“Once the formal parts of the breakfast event had been completed our guests were then able to peruse the mini trade fair and grab a sausage and a beer from the Lions,” Hannah added.
“The stallholders who came out to support the region’s farmers were Silverspoon Estate, Shiraz Republic, Heathcote Health, Woolsell, 3523 Fitness, Bendigo Financial Counselling Service and Milvine Estate,” she said.
WITH a packed room of her target market Rural Bank chief executive Alexandra Gartmann used the Heathcote farmers’ breakfast to deliver her take on farming – its economy and its outlook.
Speaking to the McIvor Times after the breakfast Ms Gartmann said the sheer diversity of the Heathcote region’s agricultural industries – from stud Merino breeding to viticulture and from livestock and traditional broadacre farming – makes it an interesting case.
She said the modern farmer might need to revisit how they judged the value of their business.
“One of the best ways for farmers to properly understand their true worth is to look at the value of their landholdings,” Ms Gartmann said.
“Our bank’s Australian Farmland Value report, which has looked at the past 20 years of sales, and median values shows rural land has performed very well in that time,” she said.
“It has recorded annual growth of 5.8 per cent – and that’s a median performance, some land in specific production areas has done much better.
Northern Victoria, which covers Heathcote and Bendigo, has recorded an annual growth of 6.5 per cent since 1999.
“But at the same time the figures confirm that if you are in agriculture you are in for the long haul.
“Farmland and quarter by quarter assessments do not, and probably never will, match.”
Ms Gartmann said the cattle market is currently outstanding; lamb and wool are just as good – lamb to the US is a huge export market with plenty of scope to keep growing.
“Fine Merino wool is now 22 per cent above its most recent five-year average and no-one can complain about that.”
She also boosted the local wine industry, now established in its own right and with a recognised geographical indicator.
“Wine is exporting as much as 1.6 million tonnes of product each year and Victoria in general has a big slice of that and Heathcote’s wineries are enjoying an increasing share of this market dominance,” Ms Gartmann said.
“And the local wineries who are value adding their production, with a cellar, a cafe´ or whatever certainly helps get people to your front door and tasting your wines,” she said.
“The key for banks, in this digital world, is to think with more innovation, about partnerships, investments and equity, to help our clients succeed.’’
Meet the Lions, catering magicians for the day at the Heathcote Farmers Breakfast.
Bacon and eggs were on the menu at the Heathcote Farmers Breakfast.
Peter Strange, men’s health nurse from Bendigo Community Health.
Rural Bank chief executive Alexandra Gartmann.
Attendees browse the various stalls at the farmers breakfast.