Growing the family farm business

4 December 2020

The Rolfe family have been farming at ‘Kenilworth’, near Nimmitabel, for seven generations.

This part of the Snowy Monaro region in South-East NSW is known for cold, dry winters and producing some of the best merinos in the country.

The Rolfes ran a merino wether trading operation until last year, when pressure from the drought and rising stock prices led them to re-think their entire operation.

“We initially looked into a RIC loan when we were changing our enterprise mix to a self-replacing merino flock,” Andrew Rolfe said.

Andrew’s father, Stephen, said they knew it would be hard to fund such a significant change.

“We could see the RIC’s lower interest rates would give us flexibility going into the future."

family photo

The Rolfe family used the Rural Financial Counselling Service throughout the process.

They helped the Rolfes put their application together and provided support.

“There were some hoops to jump through, but we did have a lot of help from our local rural financial counsellor," Jo Rolfe said.

"They gave us a lot of support.

“It made quite a big difference for us to have some respite from the heavy-duty interest rates.”

The Rolfes have used the RIC loan to change their enterprise mix and refinance bank debt.

The loan will also help them prepare for future drought.

“We’re not out of the woods yet, but having the lower stocking rate has given the country a chance to recover and given us an opportunity to make a bit of silage for the next dry period,” Stephen said.

“It’s also opened up some opportunities to start succession planning, which is very important to us.”

Jo said having Andrew and his family at ‘Kenilworth’ despite the years of adversity is a dream come true.

“It just thrills us to bits that Andrew wants to be here,” Jo said.

“He is as passionate as any of us, if not more.

"It’s great that Zoe and the kids are there to support him as well.

"That’s perfect.”

family walking through gate

Andrew recently received a Nuffield Scholarship for 2021, supported by Australian Wool Innovation (AWI).

Andrew will continue his research into intensive management techniques and models for merino sheep production.

He will explore how to develop a productive, sustainable and drought-resilient farming system.