Fourth-generation Myponga dairy farmer Samantha Martin moved away from the farm after leaving school but always knew she’d return to carry on the family tradition.
Martin is the modern face of South Australian dairy farming and the 31-year-old helps run a 400-hectare property called Bengowrie, one of only nine remaining dairy farms in the region. Martin lives on the property with her husband Ryan (who hails from the UK) and their three-year-old daughter Daphne. Her parents Craig and Gayle and other family members also work on the farm.
Bengowrie, established by Martin’s great-grandparents in the early 1920s, has 350 Friesian cows producing an annual two-million litres of milk, which goes into a range of award-winning dairy products for SA-owned and -operated Fleurieu Milk.
Martin says she’s heartened by the fact that a growing number of South Australians are now actively choosing locally-produced milk.
“I have changed a lot in my own behaviours when I’m shopping whether it’s milk or fruit and veggies,” she says. “Growing up, when I first lived on my own, I always just bought whatever was cheapest on the shelf and I never thought about what was behind the product.
“We have really got to change that way of thinking, and start being aware that there are local families behind all of these products.”
One of three daughters, Martin was the only sibling to become hooked on farming.
“I was always out with Dad on the farm from an early age, I just loved it, whereas my two sisters probably didn’t have that same level of interest,” she says. “My grandpa taught me to drive the ute and my dad taught me to ride a motorbike and drive the tractor to put out hay.”
Martin, who went to school at Myponga Primary followed by Tatachilla Lutheran College at McLaren Vale, only left the region when her dad, Craig, encouraged her to spread her wings. She worked in human resources in Adelaide, Alice Springs and Townsville before returning to Myponga in 2014.
“I always knew I’d come back; it was always going to happen, I just didn’t know when,” she says. “I really missed home. I’m very attached to this place and when I lived away and had holidays, I’d always just come back here.”
Working on the farm is a far cry from the corporate world. Martin’s long days start at 4am for morning milking followed by afternoon milking and the endless other jobs associated with managing a farm. It is a seven-day a week concern. She says the key to succeeding at running a dairy farm is “being really open to just sacrificing a lot of stuff”.
“People say it’s a lifestyle and it really, really is because you can’t have a life away from it. If something happens, you just need to be here because at the end of the day, they’re animals and they need you. You can’t just say ‘can you stop having that calving problem, I’ll deal with you tomorrow’.”
Aside from the hard work and long days, one of the biggest challenges currently facing farmers everywhere – including Martin and her family – is
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