Inspired by the mental health challenges facing dairy farmers, co-owners of Gippsland Jersey Sallie Jones and Steve Ronalds refocused their careers and established their own farmer-owned milk brand to help dairy producers get fair milk prices.

Sallie was born into a dairy farming family in East Gippsland’s Lakes Entrance in Victoria and enjoyed a very unconventional and innovative upbringing which involved not only milking cows, but value adding and processing the milk they produced into making award winning icecream.

“It’s every kid’s dream to own an ice cream shop, right! …  my childhood was a bit like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, except we had to pitch in and work hard.” Sallie said.

Growing up in a family where big ideas and entrepreneurship was encouraged, has enabled Sallie with great confidence and experience to co-found a milk brand in September 2016.

Gippsland Jersey is an honour project for Sallie’s late father, Mike Bowen who tragically took his life after suffering from some mental health issues. A few months after his death the milk crisis happened and the people of Gippsland started to ask what milk they could buy that was 100% Gippsland farmer owned. There were no options. An opportunity some may say?

Around the time Sallie’s dad was suffering his mental health crisis, family friend Steve Ronalds (dairy farmer from Jindivick) had a motorbike accident that left him with broken ribs, collarbone, shoulder blade, punctured lung and short-term memory loss. It was months before he could properly tend to his 450 jersey cows which gave him time to think about how he could value add to his jersey milk.

Both at a crossroad, but keen to honour their dairy farming backgrounds, Sallie and Steve came together and started wrestling with the twin challenges of how to dairy farm sustainably, as well as support those dairy farmers who were struggling.

“Our aim is simple: fair price for farmer. We believe in a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. And when you buy Gippsland Jersey milk, that is what you are helping to provide.”

Sallie and Steve are part of Rocket Seeder Spring Crop 17.

“Being part of the program gives me the incredible opportunity to consolidate our story and practice speaking about it every week.” says Sallie. “The access to food technologists, industry support and business people is helping Steve and I take our business to the next level.”

And, for the next step for their business, Sallie is considering getting her father’s ice cream churn out of the shed.