Low interest lifeline for first generation farmers

Graham, Lorna and Tia Jones, Great Southern WA

Graham and Lorna Jones are first generation farmers in Katanning, Great Southern WA. They started farming 7 years ago.

“We cropped for the first 3 to 4 years and that’s all we did, now we’ve moved into sheep, and over the last 2 years into export-quality hay,” Graham said.

The Joneses decided to move into export-quality hay as a means of reducing and controlling weeds without using as many heavy chemicals.

“But it meant a whole new scale of machines,” Graham said.

Photo of machine with hay

“To see that the RIC was offering something specifically for farmers to reduce that day-to-day repayment debt by means of low interest was a lifeline for us.”

The Joneses needed a mower, a baler and a truck to start their hay operation. They were able to purchase these things in the first season with the help of a Regional Investment Corporation (RIC) loan.

“It meant we could diversify immediately instead of sitting around for 5 years hoping for good crops,” Graham said.

“We’ve already benefited from that.”

Katanning is a typically reliable area with an average annual rainfall of 450mm. The recent drought hit the area hard in late 2020 and early 2021.

“We’ve had to cart a bit of water this year,” Lorna said.

“It’s the first year we’ve had no water in our dams, so that’s quite challenging.”

“It highlights what we need to prioritise when it comes to looking after our water,” Graham said.

To improve water storage on their farm, the Joneses have bought a 120,000L water tank and invested in a second block of land 10km down the road. This block is better suited to natural water collection, with a valley and 2 separate dams.

“We’ve got water sitting in those dams, whereas we’ve got nothing on the rest of this farm,” Graham said.

“That has been made possible by the RIC loan,” Lorna said.

Photo of Jones family

“Because we’re first generation farmers, we don’t have the benefit of an inherited farm, so everything we’ve done has been using the bank’s money. Everything becomes about how much interest we’re paying,” Graham said.

“The RIC loan means we can improve our farm and hopefully secure our future here,” Lorna said.

“We can build that little bit and expand a little bit. It really all comes down to the RIC loan making that possible.”