Our Farmers


Since the late 1800s, the Felton Valley has established itself as a fertile farming area with a history as rich as the soil it was made on. Farming in Felton has adapted through time from early dairy farms, to tougher times and the development of machinery and other technologies that saw farmers branch out to a range of crops thanks to the region's reliable growing environment and productive soils.

Today's farmers have the opportunity to grow a wide range of summer and winter cereals, oilseeds and legumes. But grain is not the only production in the valley. Animal enterprises include beef, dairy, pork, lamb, goats, eggs and Thoroughbred horses. Vegetable producers are drawn to the well-drained slopes and reliable irrigation. Over time, many farming properties have changed hands, but there has also been a strong family continuity, with some families having resided in the valley for up to six generations.

Meet some of the characters that call the Felton Valley home:


Craig

How long have you been farming?
Since I was big enough to drive machinery! Officially, I left school in 1982 and started with my father then.

Where is your farm located and how big is it?
The original home block is in the Felton East area and is 182 hectares. I have also purchased a neighboring farm, which is 168 hectares and is across the road from the festival site and share farm for two neighbours which is an extra 56 hectares.

What do you farm?
I grow wheat and barley in winter and sorghum, corn and mungbeans in summer.

How many people work on your farm?
Just myself at the moment, with help from my wife and kids.

What do you like most about farming?
I love trying to create an environment in the soil where the seeds you plant can grow to their fullest. We have no control over the weather so this is one of the few things we can do to the best of our ability.

What is your least favourite part of farming?
Watching a crop that had the potential to be well above average be devastated by drought or flood.

What is one key change you have seen take place in farming over your years in the industry?
The evolution of zero/minimum tillage has changed the face of farming, helping to control our moisture and stubble content in our soil - leading also to precision farming with minimal disturbance planters and GPS guidance.

What challenges do you see for farming in the future?
The weather is always an over riding factor - if you get the wrong weather at the wrong time it can ruin a crop. We are also always price takers not price makers so local and world markets play heavily on what we get for our product. I also worry that we are losing our family farms as it is hard for future generations to stay on the farm. Foreign investment is also a concern; we are losing our best land to overseas buyers so they can sure up their future while we may lose ours.

What opportunities do you see for farming in the future?
As the world population rises, countries will rely more heavily on farmers than ever before. We have very little high quality farming land so we need to look after it and nourish it so we can provide food and fibre for future generations. 

Why do you like being involved in the Felton Food Festival?
My family has been in the Felton area for six generations now and its wonderful to be able to show others what we can achieve.

Why should people come to the Festival?
We want people from urban areas to see the beautiful and bountiful land that is just at their doorstep, and show them what it has to offer. This precious land can not be reproduced. If people see where and how food and fibre is produced they will understand why it is so vital for our future.


Vicki

How long have you been farming?
20 years at Felton but both Andrew and I grew up on farms

Where is your farm located and how big is it?
We are located on four holdings at Felton  and Ellangowan totalling  350 hectares

What do you farm?
In winter we grow usually chickpeas, wheat, barley or canary, and in summer we grow sorghum, mungbeans and millet. We also have Angus cattle so plant forage sorghum and oats

How many people work on your farm?
My husband, Andrew and I.Our three boys - Sam 15, Jack 13, and Tom 11 – are a fantastic help on weekends and school holidays

What do you like most about farming?
We spend a lot of time planning in farming, and I love seeing the success of it all coming together

What is your least favourite part of farming?
The vagaries of the weather and keeping up with the constant demand for more machinery and tools that goes with living with four boys!

What is one key change you have seen take place in farming over your years in the industry?
Definitely the improvements in technology, and particularly in the development of satellite guidance. This has allowed us to reduce overlap on the farm, in some places 15%

What challenges do you see for farming in the future?
The affordability of purchasing more land and the rising cost of inputs (including machinery, chemicals and labour)

What opportunities do you see for farming in the future?
There are so many opportunities for children going forward into the agricultural industry. To continue feeding the world agriculture needs not only farmers but chemists, writers, teachers, computer programmers, economists, food technicians, fabricators…the list is endless!

Why do you like being involved in the Felton Food Festival?
The Festival gives us a chance to bridge the gap between rural and non rural life, showcase what farmers do, and help people to understand what life is like on the land.

Why should people come to the Festival?
It’s a great chance to chat to a farmer and take in the natural beauty of the area that we are so proud to live in.

Any other comments?
The Felton Food Festival has given our boys the chance to really connect to, and play an important role in the community. They love being involved and have engaged their entrepreneurial sides by packaging and selling things like pecan nuts and alpaca poo.


David House

How long have you been farming?
For as long as I can ever remember. My Dad was a dairy farmer and I started farming as soon as I left school at 16, 45 years ago.

Where is your farm located and how big is it?
We are located in Cambooya in the Felton Valley (about 25 minutes from Toowoomba). The farm is 650 hectares.

What do you farm?
We have farmed a variety of things over the years, but our main areas of focus are Angus cattle and Waygu bulls (of which we send the calves to Japan), grain crops, bird seeds, oil seed and hay crops. We also lease some land to a veggie farmer who grows mainly lettuce and broccoli. We also have land set aside for experimental crops, and we often work with the CSIRO on these projects.

How many people work on your farm?
We have three generations working on the farm – my father, myself and my two sons.

What do you like most about farming?
I like the flexibility and diversity of it. There’s always lots to do but you can decide each day what you tackle first. I like that each year is different and we can change direction from cattle one year to grain the next.

What is your least favourite part of farming?
The politics of farming. Legislation changes can make things difficult and these decisions are out of our control.

What is one key change you have seen take place in farming over your years in the industry?
Improvements in communication. I remember when cordless phones first came about and they could only work about 100m from the base. I always thought it would be great to be able to take a phone onto the farm. Now I can take my whole office on my phone. It makes accessing information much eaier and more convenient.

What challenges do you see for farming in the future?
Outside influences and decision making impacting on farming practices. Some things take a lifetime to learn and are things only a farmer knows. There needs to be a better understanding of this amongst decision makers.

What opportunities do you see for farming in the future?
Diversifying and doing more with what we grow. Instead of just growing crops, there are opportunities to also package and sell our products. There are many opportunities around vertical integration into farming, and looking at future market demand and then growing crops to meet this.

Why do you like being involved in the Felton Food Festival?
The committee is a great group of people with lots of energy and passion. They are forward thinking and there is so much potential for the festival in the future.

Why should people come to the Festival?
To gain a better understanding of where their food comes from and how it is produced.

Any other comments?
There is a good future in farming for the people who play the game right and embrace change. Farmers should always be looking towards the future and be flexible and willing to diversify and try something different.


Bob

How long have you been farming?
All my life so far! I started farming in 1948, so 68 years this year.

Where is your farm located and how big is it?
The farm is located in Felton and is 175 hectares.

What do you farm?
In winter we farm wheat or barley and in summer it is sorghum, corn, mung beans, sunflowers and millett.

How many people work on your farm?
My son, Peter, and I work on the farm. I am his offsider these days.

What do you like most about farming?
Getting up in the morning and watching a crop grow from planting through to harvest.

What is your least favourite part of farming?
Fighting the elements at times, things like drought, fire, floods, hail storms. Also the challenges of poor yields and poor prices.

What is one key change you have seen take place in farming over your years in the industry?
GPS auto steer, minimum till practices and the use of chemicals replacing cultivating.

What challenges do you see for farming in the future?
Weeds are becoming harder to get rid of, the price of grain is very low and the expenses of running a farm continue to rise.

What opportunities do you see for farming in the future?
I see a very bright future with plenty of opportunities. If only I were 50 years younger!

Why do you like being involved in the Felton Food Festival?
Being part of a very friendly, happy day with all the other local volunteers and those from other areas helping and sharing their stories.

Why should people come to the Festival?
To come and see how we live in the country and how we make a living. There are plenty of stalls and exhibits to enjoy and good clean country air to breath in. They will also get to eat some good food.


Rowan & Isy Mengel, Long Standing Dairy Farm!

Rowan's grandfather started the dairy in 1922 and despite all of the dairies shutting around them they have stayed strong for three generations. Felton used to be full of small dairies, with cheese factories all over the place. Things changed with deregulation and tougher times, which meant many moved into cropping in the valley. The Mengel's property is 1,700 acres, with 450 cows (give or take a few). All of the milk from Rowan's dairy is supplied to Pauls so next time you are in the supermarket remember to support local farmers by buying Pauls milk.

Rowan likes a joke and good yarn, he is the salt of the earth kind of fella. When asked if he enjoys farming he was quick to reply "I love it, otherwise I wouldn't be here" and his smile backed this up. "You're born into farming - it's in your blood!"

As Rowan and his wife Isy round up the cows for the afternoon milking, Isy checks on her little babies - the Dexter cows. After many years of difficulties with calving heifers, Rowan started using a Dexter bull and has never looked back... neither has Isy... she now has her own babies. 

Rowan also has his 'Girlfriends' as named by Isy (cheeky bugger). A great collection of old machinery that Rowan continues to add to... heaven forbid if a scrappy were to get their hands on these girls!


Rob & John Piper, Father and Son Modern Day Farmers

Driving along the Pittsworth Road you might just spot a harvester hard at work in a paddock full of Barley. This property is home to father and son farmers Rob and John Piper... and their lovely border Collie dog Oscar!

As a younger farmer in the district, John is often referred to as a modern farmer, who uses techniques such as zero tilling and is always willing to give new things a go. He is a bloody hard worker... much like all farmers in the Valley!


Sylvester Paulie aka Vestie, Retired Farmer and Professional Tinkerer!

in his late 80's Vestie is never short of yarns or time to show you around his shed. Often referred to as the "inventor" or "tinkerer", Vestie is famous in the local district for the ride on lawn mower he built 30 years ago (it is still in A1 condition and works better than anything you will find in a shop).

His parents built the homestead (that Vestie still lives in) in 1912 and he looks after the place, even repairing one of the front steps (banging the hammer on an anvil like someone 40 years younger).

Although he is retired from farming he still likes to keep busy and loves when visitors stop by for a yarn. Brimming with great stories about farming and life 70 years ago, Vestie says "over the years everything has changed to the buggery!"

Talking computers and social media, Vestie looked worried. Pulling his Samsung flip phone from his top pocket (it was chained to his top pocket so he didn't lose it) Vestie proudly says that he only uses his phone as a phone! That's all it should be used for. Computers and phones, 'it's gone mad altogether".

This Felton farmer is someone you could sit and yarn with all day long. A great local man full of terrific stories and jokes about the Felton Valley. You can't hide anything from this bugger.


Bruce Passmore, 4th Generation Felton Farmer

Bruce is a diversified farmer, with a finger in every pie - cattle, sheep, hay and cropping on his property which has been in the family since 1878. Bruce has 1,050 acres on the Condamine River, and you'd think living so close to the river Bruce would be a fisherman, but in his entire life he has only been fishing twice... too busy on the farm perhaps! He says he would prefer to go and have a beer with the fishermen than throw in a line.

Bruce invested a lot into starting a Limousine Cattle Stud and is now finally starting to recover some of that. You can see that great pride is taken in the 30 head of cattle... his calves are just divine!