THE DAIRY FARMER
In 1895, Steve’s great grandfather Oscar Ronalds settled a small patch of land in Jindivick and started milking cows. The farm grew, generations passed and Steve acquired the dairy gene. Following in Oscar’s footsteps, he purchased the family farm in Jindivick and now has a share farmer milking 450 jersey cows (twice a day, 365 days a year).
THE DAIRY FARMER’S DAUGHTER
Sallie was born and raised on a dairy farm in Lakes Entrance, East Gippsland. She spent her childhood milking cows, making ice cream and working in the ice cream parlours scooping ice cream to the tourists before heading to Melbourne to work in PR for a couple of years. In those short few years Sallie learned the value of relationships and networking, the power of media and the confidence to be a bit wild with her ideas before returning back to the family farm/factory to start a milk brand with her dad before having three children.
OUT OF CRISIS, AN OPPORTUNITY
In November 2015, a motorbike accident left Steve nursing broken ribs, a broken collarbone, a broken shoulder blade, a punctured lung, and short-term memory loss. Three hospitals later, he returned to his farm in Jindivick but was unable to milk cows for eight months, his arm and shoulder too weak and painful. For the first time, he felt the unique vulnerability of life as a farmer.
In April of the following year, tragedy struck when Sallie’s father suicided at his Lakes Entrance dairy farm. Shortly afterwards, the dairy industry was rocked when the major milk processor Murray Goulburn slashed the price they paid to farmers for their milk resulting in the milk crisis. This left a trail of debt and despair throughout Australia.
Steve was left wondering how he could value add to the beautiful Jersey milk he was producing. Sallie was heartbroken by her Dad’s tragic death and thought hard about how to continue her father’s legacy. The dairy industry was in crisis. The public wanted to know what brand of milk to buy that was Aussie/locally owned.
Milk - cheaper per litre than bottled water. Where’s the respect?
Both at a crossroad but keen to honour their farming backgrounds, Steve and Sallie came together to wrestle the twin challenges of how to produce exceptional milk sustainably while supporting farmers who were struggling.
Gippsland Jersey was born.
Gippsland Jersey does things differently, sourcing milk from smaller, family farms with incredible dairy farmers paying farmers a fair price for what they produce. By sidestepping large milk processors and value-adding already premium jersey local milk, we ensure a healthy wage for farmers and a clear choice for consumers.
And by manufacturing in regional Victoria, it keeps the dollars local, as well as delivering random acts of kindness to the Gippsland farming community, and creating social change in rural mental health by championing emotional wellbeing of dairy farmers who may be struggling.
We have three pillars to our brand and really know our ‘why’
Farmers MUST be paid a fair price
Smash the stigma of mental health and suicide prevention in rural areas
Kindness (...because it’s the best human attribute someone can have!)
GIPPSLAND JERSEY 2.0
You didn’t think the rest was smooth sailing, did you? Gippsland Jersey has had its fair share of challenges, but we always find the silver lining.
Just 18 months ago, our contract milk processor decided to withdraw its services, leaving us with a few short weeks to come up with a solution… or say goodbye to our beloved business.
This setback proved to be a blessing in disguise.
It inspired us to ask: Why not innovate and process our own milk, on our own terms? And where better to do it than Sallie’s late father’s farm at Lakes Entrance? The true honour project!
We ran a three week crowdfunding campaign to help raise the not-inconsiderable sum needed to kit out our milk processing facility, inviting customers to pre-purchase bottles of milk and partake in the win-win of supporting our dream, while accessing farm-fresh milk.
With over 1000 supporters, we reached our goal. It was a big day for milk.
THE MODERN MILKMAN/WOMAN
Now that our Lakes Entrance processing facility is up and running, we’ve had the pleasure of innovating continuously to meet demand for deliciously fair value added dairy products - we’ve been creative and collaborative to continuously pivot our business, create new products and find new markets resulting in lots of growth and bringing on our 3rd dairy farmer as a supplier (very exciting!).
This story doesn’t have an ending, just an ongoing commitment to milk that’s good and fair for everybody. And for that, we hope we can keep writing more chapters/versions of the Gippsland Jersey story.