Upper Rolland Plains' Michael and Sarah Hargy happily settled into the dairy farming lifestyle

Love the farm: Sarah and Michael Hargy on their Upper Rolland Plains property, Glencoe.
Love the farm: Sarah and Michael Hargy on their Upper Rolland Plains property, Glencoe.

Norco is celebrating its 125th anniversary and in the second of our three-part series we meet Michael and Sarah Hargy from Upper Rolland Plains who are part of the Norco "family".

It's easy to see why Michael Hargy says he will probably die on Glencoe, the Upper Rolland Plains dairy farm he shares with wife Sarah.

The valley is, after all, known as God's country to anyone who has visited or lived there.

Based on five separate farms covering some 700 acres, the couple milk around 220 head of cattle.

The Hargys are part of the "Norco family" - as Sarah calls it - and you couldn't get a bad word from either of them on the milk processor.

The couple have been associated with Norco for 12 years and have enjoyed a number of overseas study tours, attended Norco farmer field days and also have a very good relationship with the Norco management team.

Michael is locally born and bred and before settling into life on the farm held a couple of jobs in Telegraph Point and Wauchope.

However, he soon moved into share farming and eventually onto their current property.

The couple are offering for sale about 150 acres of land which includes their current home, but have plans for the future.

The good thing is, Michael says, we have a few choices about the future.

One of those could see them sell off the portion of land and fund the construction of a new and larger dairy more central to their remaining property.

Another option could be to slow down their own workloads and employ a property manager.

Either way, there appears little chance Michael or Sarah plan to leave anytime soon.

Scenic: The Upper Rolland Plains area has many hidden secrets.

Scenic: The Upper Rolland Plains area has many hidden secrets.

God's country

If you think isolation it's normally associated with not living near anyone or having a restricted number of friends for a particular reason.

Michael and Sarah don't consider either example fits them.

Despite there being just a handful of farms on the Littles Loop Road where they live, the couple appear content with their lifestyle.

"This is a really great community to live in," Sarah said.

"The women have a monthly luncheon which is hosted at a variety of different homes.

"Then there's the regular catch-up community barbeques initiated by the community group and held at the hall or showground. When it's hot everyone heads down to the river to a beautiful spot for a swim.

"Lunch is a really big thing out here. When the workers break for lunch you can have five or six people sitting around the table and there's plenty of conversation. There is a great sense of camaraderie and mateship.

"And when someone's sick, there will be someone there to step up and help out."

Michael has experienced a couple of health issues over the last few years and there's been plenty of people willing to help.

Amongst those are included their two wonderful full time employees and also long time mate who comes out most days to help in any capacity.

The couple's properties feature five kilometres of frontage to the Wilson River offering suitable irrigation levels to keep the pastures green and lush.

Good stock: The couple milk around 220 cows a day.

Good stock: The couple milk around 220 cows a day.

Drought, bushfires

With the valley ringed by bushfires, Michael and Sarah - like their neighbours - spent plenty of sleepless nights wondering how close the fires would, eventually, come to Glencoe.

Fortunately the couple lost just one fence on their back boundary but the combination of bushfire and drought played havoc with their theory the property was 'drought-proofed for three years'.

"Bushfires surrounded the entire perimeter of the valley," Sarah said.

"We would sit here at night and just watch the fires blazing around us.

"I'd have to say we were very fortunate not to lose much else."

But with the long continuation of the drought, the couple found they had little to no grasses left for feed, and that their stockpile of stored feed was nearly completely depleted.

"Some of our pastures looked just like the (dirt) road out there," Michael said.

"There was some impact on our milking.

"We grow some crops here for feed and we thought we had around three years' drought proofing but it came to a point where we had to buy in feed for a short time."

Sarah said it was noticeable that cattle had to move further for feed which was sub standard. This led to a drop in milk production.

Partnership: Michael and Sarah Hargy say their partnership with Norco is rewarding.

Partnership: Michael and Sarah Hargy say their partnership with Norco is rewarding.

Norco support

Glencoe features one of the first - if not the first - Herringbone dairy in the Hastings, which has been upgraded at least three times over the years.

The couple say they can't see a time when they won't be living on the farm or in the area and plan to maintain their connection to Norco.

According to Sarah being involved with an Australian-owned and operated company is one of the main reasons.

"I feel they are really looking after us and because they are 100 per cent Australian farmer owned co-operative , represented by dairy farmers, elected by the farmers they are the best advocates for us and the business. They are ticking all the right boxes for us.

"Norco organises field days and study tours both in Australia and overseas (the couple have travelled to New Zealand, Ireland and England in recent times).

"They offer an on-farm management tool that helps us to budget and forecast income and there is also an in-house rural store."

Farmer for life

Michael remains passionate about the dairying lifestyle.

He says working the land and the cattle offers a real diversity of day to day working life.

"It is just a way of life," he said.

"But managing dairy farms today is harder than it used to be.

"Technology has gotten away from us older farmers whereas the younger generation are right into it.

"I'm not computer literate - I rely on Sarah for handling the accounts and office management.

"I guess farming is about banking on the unknown and always being positive about what's coming up," he said.

While Sarah is involved in the day-to-day farm operations she also holds down a full-time role as a radiation therapist at the Cancer Institute in Port Macquarie.

"It gives us a sense of security, I suppose," she said. "It is an insurance policy against the odds nature throws at us."

What else is making news:

Thank you for valuing local journalism with your subscription. While you're with us, you can also receive updates straight to your inbox from the Port Macquarie News. To make sure you're up to date with all the news, sign up here.