Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Passion is the key for honors dairy farmer

When the new farmer-driven Waterpool Co-operative was being established two years ago, a small group of farmers had to come up with $250000 in two weeks to make it work.

GEOFF ADAMS June 10, 2014 3:03am

Terry and Pauline Hehir from Wyuna.

When the new farmer-driven Waterpool Co-operative was being established two years ago, a small group of farmers had to come up with $250000 in two weeks to make it work.

The Kyabram based co-operative has been embraced by irrigators and now employs five people.

Terry Hehir was the inaugural chairman of the independent water trader and describes the establishment of the co-operative as an example of the power of a group of motivated and committed farmers.

Mr Hehir, named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list with the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in the general division for services to the dairy industry, points to the capabilities of many in the sector with whom he has worked during the years.

‘‘I like being surrounded by equally passionate people; having believers with you,’’ Mr Hehir said.

‘‘I hate being surrounded by negative people.’’

The award he sees as an acknowledgement for the industry.

A Wyuna dairy farmer, Mr Hehir has served on dairy industry organisations continuously for about 30 years and has played a key role in starting Waterpool, the Australian Dairy Conference and the Organic Dairy Farmers of Australia Co-operative.

His involvement with the agricultural leadership organisation Nuffield, first as a scholar and more recently as the immediate past chairman of the Australian board, has taken him around the country and around the world.

Dairying leader Max Fehring, who has been something of a mentor to Mr Hehir, once told him: ‘‘You can work as hard as you like on the farm, but unless you can get out and surround yourself with motivated people and reach out to the broader industry, you are limiting your capacity to achieve your own opportunities’’.

‘‘He showed me how to look beyond the farm gate,’’ Mr Hehir said.

‘‘Nuffield showed me to look beyond the region, the country, to the world.’’

He describes the program as a life-changing experience and now encourages others to participate.

He has served on the international board of Nuffield for three years.

Mr Hehir and wife Pauline adopted biological farm principles in 2000 and decided to certify their production several years later.

He helped establish the Organic Dairy Farmers of Australia Co-operative as inaugural chairman, and still supplies the co-operative which markets its products under the True Organics and Organic Dairy Farmers labels.

Mr Hehir said he couldn’t have been involved in the industry organisations without the support of his wife.

While he has an impressive CV of community service he has also had his share of small dramas along the way.

‘‘I’m probably the only person who stood for the secretary’s position with the Kyabram UDV branch and was defeated,’’ he said with a smile, recalling the 1980s when he took an unpopular stance against quotas in the dairy industry.

The Kyabram UDV branch, one of his earliest forays into community groups, became the first dairy branch to win the VFF’s branch of the year awards.

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