Fleeing the farm

Bedrock Berries Ivan and Lyn Rehbein are faced with selling their farm in future, with none of their seven children interested in taking over.
Bedrock Berries Ivan and Lyn Rehbein are faced with selling their farm in future, with none of their seven children interested in taking over. Scottie Simmonds

FOOD prices could soar and generations' worth of caring for the land lost, as farmers' children are increasingly turning away from the family business.

Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers executive officer Peter Peterson said he was worried the growing trend would have huge ramifications on the agricultural industry, as family farms folded due to a lack of interest from the next generation in taking them over.

Mr Peterson said he did not think enough was being done to address the problem, which was being experienced across all agricultural sectors.

“Farmers are being so challenged these days,” he said.

“There is an inordinate amount of legislation and regulation that has come down on them in recent years. To deal with that it has made an already long day and long week even longer.”

Mr Peterson said farmers also experienced increased input costs with the rising price of fuel, machinery and labour costs.

“That is in part to regulation to reach standards, which have been imposed by the government and industry,” he said.

Kalkie strawberry farmers Lyn and Ivan Rehbein, whose property has been in the family since 1924, have experienced first hand what happens to a business when there are no children who want to help take it over.

“It's quite sad, really, but it does have to be viable for them to be able to stay,” Mrs Rehbein said.

None of the Rehbeins' seven children have expressed an interest in the farm - something their parents do not hold against them.

“It's too much hard work,” she said.

“These days there are so many environmental issues, and so much work from the state and federal governments to get approvals to do what you need to.”

Cane grower John Manera agreed bureaucracy had got in the way of farming practices.

“There are too many rules and regulations that we have to follow,” he said.

“In the long run, most farmers don't want to stuff up the environment and would do the same thing, but without the paperwork.”

Mr Manera, who works his farm with his son John, said he had noticed a lot of young people in the area were not interested in continuing the family business.

“There are so many risks you have to take and it is not often that you get a bonus,” he said.

Sweet potato and zucchini grower Dean Akers, who bought his farm after working on tomato farms in the area, said he would not wish farming on anyone.

“My advice to my children is to get an education or an apprenticeship or something like that,” he said.

“Then, if it's in their blood and they want to continue the family farm, then it's there for them.”

Cane grower Alwyn Heidke, who is in business with his brother and two sons, said he felt the concept of the family farm could be in a dire situation.

“I think it's a known fact that there are a lot of family farms and they are the backbone of agriculture in Australia,” he said.

“But governments won't worry about that if they think they can import something cheaper.”

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