Seven strong generations and counting

Seven generations strong and counting

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The Jennings have been running their East Gippsland property for seven generations.

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For 152 years the Jennings family have farmed their property at Broadlands, east of Bairnsdale.

It's hard to imagine what the red gum plains were like when William Jennings first selected 30 hectares in 1867, naming the property Estella Park after his two daughters Esther and Ellen.

More than a century-and-a-half later, William's great-great-granddaughter Leanne Jennings is still running the farm, returning after the death of her father, John Jennings, three years ago.

"A lot of people thought we would fail as women but I don't think we're failing, I think we're excelling in the district," Leanne said.

What's unique about the Jennings family is the fact four generations of women still live on or close to the original settlement; seven generations after eight-month-old Audrey's ancestors took up the farm.

"At its peak in the 1950s it reached about 2200 acres that the Jennings' holding had but there were a lot of different generations then and I guess we're still lucky we have the original title," Ms Jennings said.

Her mother, Shirley Jennings, 89, raised two children on the farm in a house that was built at the turn of the 20th century.

"Years ago the wife stayed in the house and that was her area. I raised the children and made the butter when the cream was brought in whereas the men did the outside work and that's changed incredibly," Shirley said.

"I cooked for the shearers and at some stage I was cooking for eight so I suppose I was doing outside work.

"I would cut thistles and hand-pick the maize but when the children came along that changed."

In recent years, like many farmers in East Gippsland, the Jennings have destocked due to the drought and run between 80 and 100 Hereford and Angus and Hereford Angus-cross breeders with calves at foot.

"I had anticipated it getting dry about two years ago so I sold off a lot of stock then and I had some breeders, young breeders, and we've held on to them at the moment," Leanne said.

"We've planted some saltbush as an alternative for fodder which won't help us much now, but it'll be there next drought."

New yards, water lines and fencing and the theory "women can do anything a man can do, if not better" has kept the family farm running.

"I'm passionate about farming, I have a good mind and we've put a lot of business practices in place and rebuilt a lot of infrastructure because dad had been unwell and the infrastructure had been let go," Leanne said.

"My cattle in drought conditions are some of the best in the district and when I've sold I've topped the market in the price because they're well-bred and in demand ... we're achieving results."

Leanne's daughter and son-in-law, Zoe and Rhys Petersen, have recently returned to a neighbouring property and plan to continue the Jennings dynasty.

"I'd love to see our family name remain on the property but shire rates inadvertently are pushing us virtually off the land here and blocks around us are selling for unrealistic values, we're talking a million dollars for small acreage," Leanne said.

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