Max and Pam McKimmie
Kim Bridge, Towong (near Corryong), Victoria
Max's parents bought the 468 acre property in 1940. Milking cows, they managed the property with only two paddocks.
Max's father died when he was 11 years old, so he would help his mother after school and at weekends to run the farm until he was 16, when he left school and farmed full time. At the age of 21 Max inherited the original property.
Max had already bought a neighbouring property before he married Pam in 1967 and they have been buying extra bits of land nearly every decade since. The family now own about 600 hectares (1482 acres) and are farming cattle with their two married sons Scott and Brooke who both work off the farm to supplement the income.
Over the years they have had financially very difficult periods of time, for example, when the interest rates shot up from 15-21 per cent over a period of two months. They are still in debt but with the price of land they remain capital rich but cash poor.
Scott and Brooke are both interested in leasing initially and then taking over the land so the hand-over (albeit somewhat reluctantly on Max's part) is beginning. Scott is very 'switched on' which his mother finds exhausting. He talks non-stop about farming and the varying methods, always trying to include his Father in furthering his own knowledge of agricultural systems.
2006 has been the hardest year Max has ever experienced both due to the drought and succession concerns. He remains stoically optimistic that he will be able to grow fodder crops under the pivot irrigator but feeding is a constant headache. Not only has the pasture disappeared, so too has most of the water in the many dams, necessitating having to water large mobs at the creek and river. They would like to have water pumped, piped and troughed for water quality and environmental reasons but currently the cost is prohibitive.
The challenges that both Max and Pam see is surviving on the farm in their current situation and surviving the high operating costs. For the farm to be successful an essential ingredient is a strong relationship with your partner. It was easier to borrow and earn money off the land when they first started farming. Not wanting to sound negative, Max would not like to be doing it again. Pam says of him that he never wants to be anywhere else, but if he didn't have to work so hard they may be able to achieve a balance in their lives. There was far more time for enjoying themselves in their earlier days; Sundays would be taken up with seeing family and friends with time to swim in the river with the children.
Audio and transcript
Listen to Max and Pam's story (MP3 file 760kb)
Duration: 1 minute, 36 seconds
Max: Well I was one when they came here, so they came here in 1940 is that right?
Pam: Aha that was George and Zenda.
Max: They actually bought this farm from not a close relation, but a relation of mums and it was 468 acres at that time and they just milked cows.
Pam: Almost every decade Max bought another piece of land. We've bought out the back, that was in '76, and then we bought the neighbours. So that's the hill and the nice tree flat down there.
Max: We've been in debt all our lives.
Pam: People in the city have said to me 'well it's your choice'. But you really don't have a choice. I mean if you're on the land and you're looking after your animals, there is no choice. You've just got to look after them all the time and you'd rather not but it has to be done doesn't it.
Max: I think the difference is they've got a five-day week, or a four-day week, a lot of them, whereas us as farmers more or less have got a seven-day week.
Pam: You live on the job. We eat in our office.
Max: If the cows are calving and it's Sunday, you can't just take Sundays off, you've got to look after them. So that's something that would be hard for them to understand, I think.
Below you can view a slideshow of the McKimmie family and their property.
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Photo: Stephen Routledge