MEAT, milk and fresh vegetables are a staple of any diet, and have been hot commodities during the panic shopping epidemic.

And chances are, there's a famrer in the Lockyer Valley ensuring you and your families don't go hungry.

The Gatton Star has taken the opportunity to chat with three of our primary producers, and how they are putting Aussies first.




Glenore Grove dairy farmer Luke Stock. Photo: Dominic Elsome.
Glenore Grove dairy farmer Luke Stock. Photo: Dominic Elsome.

AUSTRALIA will always come first - that's the message from Lockyer Valley dairy farmer Luke Stock.

"As an Australian farmer, our priority is to supply food to Australian consumers first and foremost," he said.

"Once we've done that, if there's a surplus, we're happy to see it turned into the export market."

The pledge comes as consumers entered panic shopping mode when the coronavirus pandemic struck Australia last month.

Mr Stock, who supplies about 1800 litres of milk daily to Lactalis, said the multi-national dairy company had reported an increase in milk supermarket sales.

"Takeaway and restaurant markets have been taken away, and a lot more people are eating at home and consuming a lot more milk," he said.

"We need to be conscious if there is an increased milk sale in the marketplace that the supermarkets are passing it along to the farmers.

"We had increases in the marketplace throughout the past 10 years and they weren't passed along."

He said the crisis has highlighted health service workers and teachers, but it was yet to highlight the importance of Australia's agricultural industry.

"Food security is so important," Mr Stock said.

"We need to continue to supply a clean and green product, as locally as possible with less food miles."

He said the import/export market, in the present circumstances, was demonstrating how difficult it could be to rely on outsourced products.

"We are so fortunate to live in a high-producing growing area, that produces food from right across the spectrum from milk to vegetables, citrus and beef," he said.

"It's all produced here in the Lockyer."

Additional health and safety laws have been introduced to Mr Stock's Glenore Grove farm, including on-farm social distancing and how milk is transported from the farm to the supplier.

Mr Stock said the tank drivers were required to wipe down anything they touched and to wear gloves.

"As a general rule, farmers are pretty good at being isolated," he said.

"We've got plenty to do at home, unless you've got to go into town for parts - it's pretty easy to make yourself busy at home."





Vegetable grower Anthony Staatz, of Koala Farms, Lake Clarendon. Photo: Ali Kuchel
Vegetable grower Anthony Staatz, of Koala Farms, Lake Clarendon. Photo: Ali Kuchel


THE Lockyer Valley's vegetable growers are in the best position they have been in several years to grow quality crops this winter.

And for the next few months, growers across the Valley will produce about 70 to 80 per cent of the nation's soft winter vegetables.

Lake Clarendon vegetable grower Anthony Staatz said there's plenty of produce to go around, and that some Australians didn't realise how lucky they were to have clean food.

"Australian farmers do a such a great job. We've never gone hungry, we've never gone without," he said.

"It's nearly an expectation of Australian consumers that they're always going to have fresh food."

Australian farmers produce enough food for 75 million people - three times what we need.

And with improved water supplies this season, the Lockyer Valley's growers are in full production.

Mr Staatz said the importance of having food security would be a worldwide lesson, especially for countries such as Singapore which rely on imports for their population.

"If you're reliant on anything from overseas, it's going to make you pretty vulnerable at the moment," he said.

About a month ago, panic buying created unprecedented demand on growers, which resulted in high pricing for fresh produce.

But since then, Mr Staatz said the demand had dropped to record lows.

"We've never seen less demand for our product range," he said.

"There's no restaurant trade, hotels or food service industry at the moment - that's been very disruptive to the chain - which has really resulted in a big reduction in values."

He said, like the rest of the nation, safety, health and social distancing was at the forefront of their operation.

Mr Staatz has implemented several changes to ensure the safety of his workers in the field and packing sheds.

In the packing shed, the team has been split into two.

"Instead of one team doing 40 hours, we've got two teams doing 20. Just in case we get a positive infection in one team, we've got a second team that can step up."

"We've isolated teams, we don't have teams crossing over. What we're trying to avoid is one worker potentially contaminating the rest of the farm."





Gatton livestock producer Bill Hallas. PHOTO: ALI KUCHEL
Gatton livestock producer Bill Hallas. PHOTO: ALI KUCHEL


PRODUCING cattle for the market hasn't changed for Gatton grazier Bill Hallas amid the coronavirus pandemic.

If anything, it's cemented just how vital Australia's agriculture industry is.

"You need local farmers," Mr Hallas said.

"It's just so important to have your local produce, there's no doubt about that."

The 70-year-old said with the virus impacting the globe, it demonstrated how critical it was for Australia to continue to grow its own food supplies.

"Otherwise you've got to try and get the stuff from elsewhere," he said.

"Imagine trying to get fresh food from overseas right now - you wouldn't want it."

At present, Mr Hallas has about 110 head of cattle at his property, which will eventually go to the markets.

It's the process to ensure Australians have top-quality meat on their plates every night

His care for livestock during the coronavirus pandemic hasn't changed.

I continue my general farm management of them. It's made no difference to me as far as what I do with my cattle - cattle can't catch coronavirus.

The passion for producing quality livestock runs deep in Mr Hallas' blood - after all, he was the proud owner of a heifer calf at the age of four.

His family were dairy farmers and drove their cattle through town every day.

They would often collect a "backyard cow" kept for milking by town folk along the way.

"One old fella gave me a heifer calf for doing a good job," Mr Hallas said.

He reminiscing about the name the heifer was given - Christine.

"When she had heifer calves, they had to be kept - and there the enterprise and empire was born."

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