Growing crops, feeding livestock, milking the cows, tending to fruit trees and so on – farming in its many forms has been the backbone of Australia since its earliest days.
The Southern Highlands is no exception with our community born on a life of working the land.
In recent years there has been a decline in the number of agricultural properties. According to the Bureau of Statistics businesses registered under agriculture, forestry, fishing in the Highlands has dropped from 609 in 2011 to 559 in 2015.
Cabbage, Potato and dairy farming were particularly strong in the community in years gone by, but times have changed. There were about 260 dairies and more than 120 licensed potato farming families in the area in it’s hey day.
Today there are only eight commercial dairy farms and two commercial potato farming families in operation in the Highlands. While there is no longer commercial cabbage farming in the area there was a time in the 1950s when 35 trucks, carrying 1200 cabbages, would travel from the Highlands to Sydney markets five days a week.
But there is little doubt the Highlands community continues to value home-grown produce. We have two annual agricultural shows – one at Robertson, the other in Moss Vale – which have celebrated our rural lifestyle for more than 100 years.
The more recent introduction of several food and wine clusters highlight the many, varied primary producers in the Highlands. Wines, meats, truffles, fruits and berries, hydroponically grown food as well as the traditional dairy products and potatoes continue to be produced in the region.
The value of working the Highlands land is not lost with orchards, vineyards and olives becoming popular farming alternatives while quality beef, lamb and wool are also produced in the region.
National Agricultural Day to be held on November 21 is a great prompt to reflect on the value of our agricultural community.
This day is a valuable reminder of how important the agricultural industry is in our community and our country in general.
In fact, each year, on average, each Australian farmer feeds 600 people. Agriculture powers 1.6 million Australian jobs and in the past decade, our primary industries have led the nation in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
These are some statistics truly worth celebrating.