Gary Stockham and Ashley Stockham

Gary and Ashley Stockham are a father and son operation who along with Ashley’s wife Sharon run a diverse primary production business in the Giru region comprising of cane farming, cane harvesting and contract planting.

How long have you and your family been farming for?

Gary - I have been cutting for about 42 years now. I am the 3rd generation on our family farm and Ashley will be the 4th generation.

How do you feel about the future of Sugar Industry?

Ashley - Pricing and input costs for everything, both harvesting and farming, are our main concerns and where is it going to balance out. You’ve got to watch where you spend money, as there is not much to go around.

Gary - It’s not like it was 50 years ago. We have to watch our input costs as we farm differently now compared to our father and grandfather. We grow more cane for less money.

Gary - People are talking farms down which is annoying to me as there is a future in farming. We need to be positive to get the young people to understand that farming is good and it is different to working for someone. It’s too easy to be negative and one negative brings everyone down.

What sort of changes are you seeing in the district?

Gary - You are seeing more corporate farmers coming in as they have more money to spend and are buying up all the smaller farms. All the farms are owned by older farmers and selling the farm is their retirement as some of their sons and daughters have gone away to different jobs.

How come you are with CBL and QCGO?

Gary - We have always been with them. I think we are getting a good representation and they look after us. They are out there doing what we need them to, talking to committees and Government at a Local, State and Federal level. We are doing our bit here and we rely on them to do their bit to look after us so we can keep farming.

What are your thoughts on having one collective in the Burdekin?

Ashley – Every farmer has got a different view of something. It’s very hard sometimes to agree on one thing and that’s why it's branched out. To me, it should be one identity, a big group to fight, as the bigger you are, the more power you have. It should be one, that’s how I see it.

Gary – we are all fighting for the same things. Years ago it used to be one and then it all broke away. The younger ones ask why we aren’t doing it and until that changes it is difficult. It’s very hard to turn things around and it takes time.

Ashley, would you like to see your children continue in your footsteps?

Ashley – yeah he loves coming to the farm after school every day and on weekends to give us a hand with all sort of jobs. He loves it and he knows what’s going on. I was raised out here and he’s the same and that’s what we know.

What are some of your fondest memories of being brought up on the farm?

Ashley – mine is the first day of the crushing and then the last (laughs loudly). You are always excited to see it start and then you are glad to see it end each year.

Gary – the growers grow their cane and rely on us to get their crop off. That’s our primary job because they spend 12 months growing it and it's our job to get it off. At the end of the year when it’s all off, everyone’s happy. Even growing cane, every crop you grow is different. Different climate, different varieties and its always a challenge. You always try to improve. The Burdekin is a unique area because it’s all irrigation and we always burn and it’s the only district in Queensland that is like this you know. The area is good, we have permanent water and Townsville is close by. It’s a good place to be.