Every year something different happens at Glenyss and Ron Baker’s dairy farm in Katunga.
In between the early risings to milk their 300 Jersey cows at their dairy and the late nights spent irrigating or harvesting hay, people from far away descend on their farm for a taste of country life.
Unlike at most other farms in the area, these visitors are not backpackers, but rather people arriving for a very different experience — a farm holiday.
The idea came to the Bakers more that 25 years ago, and they were among the very first to capitalise on what has become the farm tourism trade.
After expanding their farm Glenarron, the couple set about renovating a former cool room on the farm when Mr Baker took a trip to Melbourne that changed how he thought of things.
‘‘(He) went to the Melbourne Show and came across the host farm stand and they were promoting farm stays,’’ Mrs Baker said.
‘‘At that stage there was only one in the western district, one in Gippsland and we were the first to start up here in the northern area.’’
Since then, the couple has been welcoming people from not only across the country, but internationally to their sprawling farm at Katunga.
While those travelling from Melbourne and Sydney are regular visitors to the farm, Mrs Baker said they had also had guests from the United States and Malaysia who were interested in seeing an Aussie farm in action.
‘‘We have quite a few that come back every so often and that’s nice, they become our friends so we send quite a lot of Christmas cards,’’ she said.
‘‘The postage is a bit these days!’’
While friendships have been forged as a result of the farm stays, Mrs Baker has also collected her fair share of funny stories along the way.
‘‘One day we had a family in, and they went over to the chooks and one girl went out and actually saw a chook lay its egg and she said, ‘I know where they come from now! I’m off eggs for life!’’’ she said with a laugh.
‘‘It was so funny.’’
During the past 26 years the couple has been responsible for introducing quite a number of children to where some of their beloved foods come from — teaching them to milk cows, make cheese and, if it’s calving season, showing them how the adorable calves they love so much come into the world.
For some, the introduction to farm life comes as a bit of a shock, especially when it comes to the number of hours that go into running a farm.
‘‘They just love it, [but] they just can’t realise how many hours a farmer works,’’ Mrs Baker said.
‘‘We don’t work from daylight until dark, it’s through the night and everything when you’re irrigating and those sorts of things, and doing hay and stuff, it’s all got to be done through the night as well.’’
Mrs Baker said the farm stays often opened up people’s eyes.
‘‘[The kids] come down to the calf shed with us, and follow us around ... They get to experience the new baby calves if there’s a new one born, or we’ll take them out to the paddock if we think one’s just about to drop,’’ she said.
‘‘It’s all a new experience for them.’’
Mrs Baker said for a number of the young children who visited with their families, it was the first time they had seen where the things in the supermarket came from.
‘‘It’s a shame ... there should be a dairy section or a beef section or an agriculture section every year (in schools) to try and promote it, but they don’t seem to do it so much,’’ she said.
‘‘If it wasn’t on their table for breakfast, well [then] they might wonder [what’s happened to a particular product].’’
While sharing the realities of food production is a bonus, the farm stay has another benefit for the couple — extra income.
Mrs Baker said it had helped them through a few rough patches, especially when they were at the mercy of the weather.
‘‘We had 10 years of drought, and that was pretty tough and tight for everyone, so this little bit of extra income has really helped,’’ she said.
‘‘It’s always nice to make a little bit extra.’’