Co-operative knowledge benefits North-West farmers

FARMING LONGEVITY: Sam Biggins stands against the old stone wall on the Wynyard property that has been farmed for more than 120 years. Picture: Grant Wells
FARMING LONGEVITY: Sam Biggins stands against the old stone wall on the Wynyard property that has been farmed for more than 120 years. Picture: Grant Wells

A small group of farmers joined forces to start the Yolla Co-op 40 years ago and the farmer’s co-operative now services more than 600 members throughout the state, but three men were there right from the beginning.

CO-OPERATIVE FARMING: Elliott farmer Rex Frankcombe with his Red Angus cattle, one of several farming pursuits in his 64-year career. Picture: Stuart Wilson.

CO-OPERATIVE FARMING: Elliott farmer Rex Frankcombe with his Red Angus cattle, one of several farming pursuits in his 64-year career. Picture: Stuart Wilson.

Sam Biggins, Rex Frankcombe and Carl Armstrong are all foundation members of the Yolla Co-op and have been reflecting on what began as a small monthly meeting of farmers many years ago.

“The buyers group evolved from the discussion group. We used to meet up once a month to talk about dairy, grass or crops,” Mr Frankcombe said.

“Slowly [Yolla Co-op] has grown to what it is now. To see where it is at Wynyard is quite a sight,” Mr Biggins said.

“When we first started we never envisaged it would get to the size it is. You feel proud of where where it’s come from,” Mr Armstrong said.

Sam Biggins farms Red Angus cattle and daffodils on his Wynyard farm, but previously farmed potatoes, sheep, pigs and dairy cows.

The property has been farmed for more than 120 years and home to Mr Biggins all his life.

“I’ve always lived here; you get attached to the place. You feel connected to the past generation,” Mr Biggins said.

Elliott farmer Rex Frankcombe started working for his father and then went out on his own as a dairy farmer with his wife Patricia.

The couple also farmed sheep, potatoes, poppies, onions, pyrethrum, swedes and now Red Angus beef.

“Farming is always a challenge and you’ve got the elements against you, but the thing is to try to make a living,” Mr Frankcombe said.

“You’ve got to have a quality product. If you’ve got a quality product, then it’s easy to sell,” he said.

Retired Wynyard dairy farmer Carl Armstrong is well versed in the ups and downs of the dairy industry that farmers are experiencing, but now prefers the quieter pursuits of growing orchids and vegetables.

“We had that dairy cycle for 50 years. It worked on a seven-year rotation: going down and then up again. We’ve been through it for years and years,” Mr Armstrong said.

“I still potter around in my vegie garden. My other interest is orchids, which is a hobby that if you’re not careful can get out of control. I have a few thousand orchids. I have plenty to keep me occupied,” he laughed,” he said.

Each of these men have worked hard on their properties with their families over many years to farm high quality produce, but also worked with fellow North-West farmers to build a farming resource that withstood the test of time, much like the old stone wall that separates the Biggins’ home and farm.