Travellers fill farmhand void at Dingee

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One Dingee family has found a solution to the problem of finding local farm workers.

Peter and Donna Sexton have embraced the backpacker revolution, hiring travellers to help out on their dairy farm for the past year. 

In return for three months’ work, the backpackers receive a one-year extension to their visa.

Sean Colleary and Aisleen Murphy from Ireland are the most recent backpackers to work at the Sextons’ farm.

They have been working  hard for the past few months milking and calving cows, spraying and bringing in haybales.

Sean is also helping out on a nearby wheat and sheep farm a few days a week. 

They describe their farming experience as “brilliant”.

“The people are really friendly around here,” Sean said. “They’ve just made us feel like we’re at home.”

The couple decided to come to Australia last year on a year-long career break. 

Sean quit his job as a banker and Aisleen postponed her teaching career.

The sojourn down under has now extended into its second year.

Aisleen said working on the farm had been a particularly memorable part of her stay in Australia.

“It’s such a healthy environment to be in. 

“There’s so much less pressure and I feel much healthier being outdoors.”

The arrangement has also worked out just as beneficial for the Sextons.

Aisleen and Sean are the fourth set of people to help out at their farm.

Donna said the backpackers had been a breath of fresh air on the farm they have run for the past 18 years.

“I’d go as far to say it’s kept us in the dairy industry. 

“With the amount of work involved, you just can’t manage to do it all yourself. 

“It’s fairly hectic and a never-ending cycle and you struggle to find time to spend as a family.

“It’s nice to have a sleep-in once in a while.

“It’s been really good for us and we have learnt a lot from them as well.”

The Sextons use online classifieds website Gumtree to find suitable backpackers.

Donna said they were inundated with responses from their last advertisement on the site.

“You need someone with a genuine interest and a general idea of farming. 

“We look for people who are willing to learn and keen to have a go (and) because there is so much demand you can be picky.”

The Sextons are not the only farmers in the Dingee area to employ backpackers.

Donna said it was becoming more and more common as people struggled to find local farmhands. 

“We have found it hard to find decent workers in the past,” she said.

“It really is a struggle to find local workers that stay.”

Donna said they were initially sceptical about hiring backpackers, but had found the experience to be richly rewarding.

“We were reluctant and very unsure at the start because you’re putting someone you don’t know in charge of your cattle, but so far so good.”

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