Following in her father's footsteps, Sallie Jones is an East Gippsland dairy farmer for Gippsland Jersey in Lakes Entrance. Her journey is about coming together with the local community through collaboration and a shared love of food and place.
There's a particular balance between land and ocean that's special to the coastal setting of Lakes Entrance. 'There aren't many places in Australia where you can be so connected to both land and sea, and for me that’s totally shaped who I am,’ Sallie says.
Growing up on her dad's dairy farm, now the home of Gippsland Jersey, Sallie developed a connection to the land that's rooted in her family history. 'The feeling I have of being on the farm is a gratitude for the people who've gone before me and have paved the way. It's a really humbling feeling of knowing this is where I grew up and this is where I belong.'
Whether she's out on the paddocks in the crisp morning air, pushing herself on a sunrise mountain run or enjoying the adrenaline rush of a cold dip in the ocean, Sallie takes inspiration and energy from the natural beauty around her.
'For me it’s about capturing every sunrise, every morning, and then feeling connected to the day and to the land. It sets you up really well.'
She likes nothing better than 'running along the sand and diving into that cold water'. An invigorating ocean swim gives her a mental clarity that 'sharpens you straight away', she says.
Dairy farming is a demanding job of twice-daily milkings, 365 days a year, but Sallie says, 'It's in my DNA. I love the dairy industry.'
The Gippsland Jersey brand continues the legacy of her father, who passed away in 2016. Sallie says, 'I wanted to honour my father as a pioneer in the dairy industry, to create a brand that he would be proud of.'
Sallie knows how challenging it can be to earn a living as a dairy farmer, so Gippsland Jersey runs on an ethical philosophy, promoting a fair-go for farmers, social change in rural mental health, and behaving with kindness.
'What we do isn't just about the milk. It's about supporting the local farmers and the people that pour their lives into every glass,' she explains.
This passion for food and community has its origins in her childhood. Sallie fondly remembers following her dad down to the jetties at Lakes Entrance, to get fish straight off the boat. Her dad owned an ice-cream shop and was always open to a fare deal: 'He used to trade and barter ice cream for fresh fish. It was a really good deal. Everyone was happy.'
She says this kind of community-minded approach still exists in Gippsland today. Tight-knit relationships and a shared sense of collaboration among Gippsland's producers is 'the thread that brings everything together'.
Motivated by the opportunity to bring community together and to connect producers and consumers through food, Sallie founded the Warragul Farmers Market in 2013. She's proud when she meets visitors who have travelled to the market from Melbourne and across regional Victoria 'to eat our food and experience what we have here'.
'I wanted to know who was growing my food and I wanted a relationship with them. The market is such a heartbeat of Warragul,' she says.
'The beautiful thing about Gippsland is we have everything here. We have the rolling hills and the ocean and the food.'
Some of the top chefs in Australia and overseas use produce from Gippsland, including Gippsland dairy. The quality is world-class, but Sallie loves how easily accessible and available it is to visitors, too.
'You can come here and you can source this for yourself. Meet the farmers, meet the producers, see where it's grown, appreciate where your food comes from.'