Nick’s great-grandfather bought Mundarlo in the 1940s. It has been in the family ever since. Early on it was purely a sheep farm which Nick’s father Frank changed over to cattle in 1973. One year later the beef depression hit, where young heifers, which today might be worth $700, were worth 50 cents. To remain viable, Frank started cropping. Mundarlo remained a mixed grazing/cropping farm until Nick and Deanna took over in 2009. But then hit the so-called ‘Millenium Drought’.
Nick “From 2002 to 2009 we fed cattle by hand for longer than 5 months in every year except 2008. We had our breeding herd coming back from the North from agistment in worse condition than they left and with 10% never coming back. Our crops were looking like failing for the 3rd time in 4 years. It was a terrible time. But to tell you the truth it was a tough catalyst for change. For us as a family it was a change for the better. It forced us to really focus on our business and our lives and to see what was wrong in the former and missing in the latter.”
Mundarlo meaning place of much fog in the local indigenous language, is situated on the banks of the Murrumbidgee river, 50km east of Wagga Wagga. One of the very first owners, William Bootes, saw income from the passing travellers on the Old Hume Highway and built a Hotel, Post Office, Pub, General Store, School House and later a Church. As a result, he formed the small village of Mundarlo.
That passing trade has long since disappeared, and now hurtles along the nearby Hume Highway freeway. In time the hotel became the main homestead and to the great sadness of all – many years ago, the pub burnt down. Today, the General Store building exists as a cottage and the Church remains, holding Christmas and Easter Services and many weddings: a gathering point for other families in the valley (along with the Bush Fire Brigade shed).
Out of such history, Nick, a former engineer and Deanna a school teacher, now run a modern balance of on and off farm business. Deanna runs a Pilates business and whole health centre in Wagga Wagga while Nick breeds and trades cattle.
Nick “We’re passionate about running a resilient and profitable farm that can withstand the variations in weather which is typical for Australia but also about being happy and having enough time to spend with the family.”
In the five years that they have been Holistically Managing - the biggest change has been in their bottom line. They now are making a profit consistently.
Nick “We have simplified our on-farm enterprises to have only beef cattle and diversified into our off-farm enterprises thus expanding our philosophy of holistic health to the wider community.”
There is a belief in the farming community that to make money you do so at the detriment of the environment. Although it is early days, the couple believe the country is becoming healthier year by year.
Nick ‘‘We want to have a profitable farming business which actually improves the landscape. We both love running and we can do that around our property which gives us a very close view of changes as theyoccur. It’s so satisfying seeing healthy grasslands, watching contented grazing cattle and noting the changes from one season to the next…and trying to ignore the pain in my upper hamstring!”
Deanna “Our main aims are to have flexible and resilient businesses that produce a profit every year. We want to enjoy putting time into those businesses and also spending time with each other. Finally we want the landscape around us to be vibrant and alive.”
Nick “And I’ve got time to play cricket with my son and laugh at one of my daughter’s pretty ordinary jokes.”