Family matters farming

THIRD GENERATION: Bill and Beryl Avis see agricultural jobs in a different light to statistics.
THIRD GENERATION: Bill and Beryl Avis see agricultural jobs in a different light to statistics. Jack Lawrie

ON THE farms out near Monto, there are a couple of types of agricultural jobs. There's family work to help out with odd jobs and contracting during labour-intensive times such as the cropping and harvesting periods.

Bill Avis, a third-generation farmer, said he hadn't seen much growth in terms of agricultural jobs in the area.

"There'd probably be a growth in beef cattle because we've lost our dairy and timber industry," Mr Avis said.

Mr Avis mostly relies on support from his family.

"My son recently bought a farm up here and he's handy, so if I want to get something done I go to him to ask for a hand and he does the same for me," he said.

Recently, Australian Bureau of Statistics figures revealed the Wide Bay area was responsible for employing the largest number of people in agricultural jobs in Queensland.

Wide Bay employs 20.68% of Queensland's agricultural employees, which has increased by 15% over the past five years.

But in the North Burnett, the idea of agricultural jobs takes on a different meaning.

When it isn't family work, farmers will look for contract help from other farmers.

Last year, due to the floods, a lot of farmers in the region had to do contract work to make ends meet as they could not work their own farms.

Mr Avis said it was hard to get workers for odd jobs since most farmers tended to be busy with their own work.

"I used to do hay and it was almost impossible to get people to come and help cart hay," he said.

"Everyone was busy, the kids had other interests and I had to buy an accumulator so I could do the lot myself."

While Mr Avis is fortunate in that his son is available to help, there is a generation gap of some (though not all) young people in the North Burnett that grow up in an agricultural town but leave to pursue other interests once they finish school.

"I think kids that are interested in agriculture will probably stay and help around their parents' farm until dad can help them afford a farm of their own," Mr Avis said.

"But then you have the other guys that want to go to the city, do a bit of uni and get a job."

Queensland Farmers Federation president Stuart Armitage said the future was looking up for the agriculture industry as a whole.

"Growing farm businesses have a greater need for new technologies and innovations and can open up new job opportunities," Mr Armitage said.

In the North Burnett area, such opportunities depend on local businesses and industries propped up by agricultural work.

With people moving from farm to farm to help out family members or contract themselves out, it isn't necessarily adding to the total number of jobs.

For third-generation farmers like Bill Avis, it's unclear whether that will amount to long-term growth in jobs for the next generation of farmers.

Topics:  agriculture north burnett

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