MADDIE Veneman and Anthony Scott have found a path to reducing stress and enjoying the good things about farming life after completing the Our Farm, Our Plan program.

The young couple made the big jump into farm ownership at Yarram four years ago at ages 23 and 25; a daunting challenge, especially for Maddie, who is from a non-farming background.

Dairy Australia’s Our Farm, Our Plan program, supported by Gardiner Dairy Foundation, gave them a fresh perspective on where they are heading and how they can get there.

It especially helped Maddie and Anthony to focus on their personal relationship and work-life balance, making them a stronger couple as well as better farmers.

“A lot in the group focussed on a plan for their farm; Anthony and I focussed on our relationship,” Maddie said.

“With farming, you and your partner are the foundation of the business and that needs to be going well. Buying a farm when we had a six-month-old baby was a huge investment and an overwhelming process. Life as a dairy farming couple living and working together, especially with young kids, can be stressful at times.

“Our Farm, Our Plan allowed us to have the conversations we might not have had about me not being from a dairy farming background and how it might help if I got an off-farm job.”

Maddie never envisioned a life as a full-time dairy farmer. Her main personal goal identified during Our Farm Our Plan – to find a job – has been achieved ahead of schedule. Maddie now works part-time as a teacher’s aide, and they are seeking a full-time farm employee.

Maddie and Anthony don’t see themselves as life-long farmers but want to establish a good base for their family, with four-year-old Dempsey and two-year-old Emmy-Lou.

“In our plan we identified that in the next five years we want to diversify by reducing our milking numbers and extending our beef herd and even looking at investing in another business,” Maddie said.

Already involved in local netball and cricket, Maddie and Anthony have a goal to contribute more to their community while sharing more time with their family.

“We still want to be active in the farm but have less day-to-day involvement so we can go travelling and be part of what our kids are doing,” Maddie said.

“People farm for different purposes; our purpose is to set up our kids and give them the best opportunities we can.”

“When Anthony was about 10, he travelled around Australia with his family when they took a year off the farm. That was a really good life experience and it’s something we want to do as well.

Our Farm, Our Plan included a review of participants’ attitudes towards risk-taking, revealing Maddie and Anthony to be “like chalk and cheese”, but somehow it has worked.

Anthony says Our Farm, Our Plan has provided a reference for the future, and the confidence to curtail his risk-taking approach.

“Some wacky ideas might pop up in your head, but they may not take you in the right direction,” he said. “I think outside the box a bit but doing this helped me to focus on the end goal and how it will be quicker to get there.

“In five years, we hope to be in a position that someone else can run the farm for long periods of time so we can pursue other interests. We’ve been high stress for four or five years but we’re ahead of where we thought we’d be, so we don’t have to take risks now – we can manage what we’re doing and reduce stress.

“We can concentrate on us first and get more freedom in our lives.”

Maddie admits she has been the conservative voice to Anthony’s risk-taking in everything from growing grass to buying a farm at a young age.

“I was a bit overwhelmed when we started and I looked at our debt, but I trust Anthony and know he is an excellent farmer and having a plan has helped us to better focus on our goals,” she said.

“Sometimes people have plans in their head but if you don’t write them down, they can be easily forgotten or put off,” she said.

“We’ve already reached the first stepping stones in our five-year plan with my job and we’ve started to mix our herd.”

Our Farm, Our Plan is designed to help farmers identify long-term goals, improve business performance and manage volatility. It was developed by Dairy Australia with support from Gardiner Dairy Foundation and Dairy NZ.

To register for the Our Farm, Our Plan program, contact GippsDairy regional extension officer Kathryn Fox on 0417 745 691.