A friend suggested I write about how I deal with “rural isolation” but the irony is that I feel less isolated living on 500 acres, 15 minutes out of a small town, than I did when I lived in Melbourne, a city of millions.
The farm is a busy place. As well as Clarkie, who works four days per week with us, we employ relief milkers and deal with a long list of contractors – vets, those who cultivate the soil and harvest silage, fencers, fertiliser spreaders, dairy service technicians, agronomists, farm consultants and earthworks contractors spring to mind. There are our suppliers too – stockfeed merchants, rural supplies, even waste collection.
It also seems there’s not a day goes by when I don’t get an invitation to an industry seminar or forum. Around Yarram, we have quite a group of progressive farmers who regularly attend field days and sessions to learn from the experts and our local Landcare network keeps a busy calendar. Slowly, too, farmers are getting together online as well as at field days. From the warmth of my office, I can connect with dairy farmers on the other side of the state or the world, whether that’s New York, Japan or even Africa.
Still, just as in the city, children draw the community together in a way that nothing else can. Kindergarten, swimming lessons and dancing classes offer a chance to relax, enjoy the moment and catch up with friends. With around 2000 residents, Yarram is the sort of place where you can’t walk down the street without bumping into somebody you know. That sense of community balances perfectly with the space of the farm.
I can’t imagine living in central Australia on a remote cattle station. That might be real rural isolation but this certainly is not.