Story by Jaari Heyes, Photos by Gippsland Jersey
“No one can ever take away our freedom of how we respond to a situation.”
Grief impacts every one of us in different ways. For some people, it is the act of putting one foot in front of the other that initiates transformation.
Sallie Jones dealt with the tragic loss of her dairy-farming father during the dairy crisis in 2016 the only way she knew how - to keep her father’s legacy alive by creating not just a milk brand, but a movement for change within the dairy industry.
The devastation of the dairy crisis left the Gippsland region unnerved. As Sallie was involved in the Warragul farmers market and had many close connections within the community, the locals began seeking answers from her.
“They wanted to know how to support local farmers,” says Sallie.
“Every milk that you look at is foreign owned, which is odd considering the largest dairy region in Australia is Gippsland. There was no local brand at the time.”
Sallie took matters into her own hands and hosted five dairy farmers on a panel discussion at the Warragul farmers market surrounding the topic of localising milk. The response was incredible.
“Hundreds of people were showing up to the market and giving their support,” says Sallie.
“I had this overwhelming thought that I could actually help! I can create a positive narrative in what is happening right now.”
With her father’s pioneering vision to value-add his herd’s milk, Sallie and her business partner Steve Ronalds honoured him by creating Gippsland Jersey. From then on Sallie made it her mission to ensure Gippsland Jersey was more than an independent sustainable milk brand.
“I used the journey my family had been on and my understanding of dad’s suffering to create a brand that had three pillars. The first is that farmers must be paid a fair price. The second is creating social change towards how we speak about mental health, and the third is around sharing kindness.”
As a business owner and female within the dairy industry, this down-to-earth role model continues to seek out the positives during challenging times. Today, Gippsland Jersey’s milk is processed on Sallie’s father’s farm in Lakes Entrance.
“The special part about this story is the new energy and chapter it has created on our family farm. It’s gone from this overgrown and unloved farm to an activated, vibrant and bustling hub.”
As a way to platform our farmers, Gippsland Jersey has a calendar that advocates for mental health.
“Even though people think it’s just a calendar, it’s definitely not. It’s the psychology behind someone showing up to their farm, taking a photograph and documenting their story. That’s what validates a person, and it can create a mental shift,” says Sallie.
With a deep connection to Gippsland, Sallie hopes to regenerate and reactivate what this diverse region has to offer, including repurposing the old Lakes Entrance boating slipway.
“I went on a study tour last year to Holland and I saw this concept in play where all these food businesses were in one space on the water. The vibe was amazing. It was what the pinnacle of collaboration looks like,” says Sallie.
Collaborating with three other passionate and driven women in the food industry, Sallie’s vision for the Slipway project is to have a space for people to come together and enjoy themselves.
You can feel Sallie’s strength and determination from simply speaking with her. She is the type of person that will take on any opportunity to better the world, reminding us of our own hidden potential and the importance of staying true to your values.
“Make sure you truly believe that you can actually do it, and surround yourself with people that encourage you.”
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Photos are glimpses of the emerging Slipway project in Lakes Entrance