David Basham always knew his family’s farming history on the Fleurieu Peninsula went back a long way, now he knows just how far.
Research inspired by Port Elliot’s Legendairy Capital win has uncovered a continuous family link dating back 168 years.
David, then the South Australian Dairy Association president and now acting president of Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF), was asked to officially open Port Elliot’s dairy museum extension, which was completed with a grant from the Legendairy Capital program.
“We dug into the family history and discovered we’ve been dairy farming since 1848,” David said. “We knew we went back to the 1860s or 1870s but we did a bit more research and found people back then had to declare what they were doing in an annual census.”
Dairy farming brothers William and John Basham relocated about 12 kilometres from Hindmarsh Valley in the 1850s to a farm between Middleton and Port Elliot which the Bashams still use to run cattle and make silage.
David is proud of his family’s long dairying history and region’s ongoing connection to dairy.
“They’ve done a great job pulling that history together in the museum at the Port Elliot showgrounds, including things I didn’t imagine were still in existence.”
Dairy farming has been a lifelong passion for David. “I always enjoyed dairy farming; the cows and growing grass,” he said.
“I was strongly encouraged to go to university but the accounting degree and I didn’t really get on. After two and half years I decided going back on the farm was much more sensible.
“I enjoy the challenges of farming and the flexibility of owning a small business, and being in control of my own destiny to a certain degree. It gives me flexibility to do things with my family and over a long period of time it has been very good as a business.”
The main family farm at Mount Compass milks 320 mainly Holstein Friesian cows and supplies Parmalat. They also maintain a few Guernsey to continue a stud started in 1927 by David’s grandfather Bunny.
David has been a steward for the Guernsey Cattle Society for nearly 30 years while about nine years ago Bunny was named the first ‘living legend’ of the Royal Adelaide Show, just days before his death at 97.
“He showed cattle there for many years and was very passionate about the show,” David said.
“David’s father Roger was vice president of SADA and David has followed in his representative footsteps.
He was elected to the executive at his first SADA local branch meeting in2002, became president the next year and the following year became the organisation’s treasurer and president in 2005.
This year, when the ADF presidency was vacated, David stepped up to act in the role. He plans to formally nominate for the position in November.
“I enjoy making a difference and I’ve had some successes over time, particularly in South Australia,” he said, pointing to drought declarations in the 2000s and in expanding milk collection options for South Australian farmers.
He’s come to the ADF role at a tough time but hopes new legislation to stop unfairness in contracts and national attention on the plight of dairy farmers will turn the tide.
Being a national industry leader means a lot of time away from the farm, but David still oversees its management and returns to milk at least every third weekend “which keeps me grounded and understanding what’s happening,” he said.
“The representational role takes a lot of time, particularly with the way things are, but most of the time I enjoy it. There are times when it’s tough, particularly dealing with farmers who are emotional. It’s hard not to take that emotion on-board.”
David takes up the challenge to play a role in creating a better dairy industry, and supports the Legendairy communications initiative to raise the profile and reputation of the industry.
“It’s good to show how important farmers are and the diverse skill-set they need for their job, and it also helps farmers themselves be aware of how good they are. It’s often hard to give yourself a pat on the back so it’s nice when the industry does it for you.
David has no plans to slow his dairy links. “We’ve been going 168 years. It’s not something I’m going to force my next generation to take on but I’d be happy if they want to.”