Moving from inner city Melbourne to rural Victoria

From an 80-square-metre apartment to a 70-hectare farm

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They moved bought the farm in their early 30s.


Some would suggest it's the Australian dream.

To move to the country and purchase a farm in your early 30s.

But buying a property on Victoria's Surf Coast and relocating from inner city Melbourne is not everyone's cup of tea.

For Moriac wife and husband Alexandra Brown and Sam Hayden,it was a sea change they have not regretted.

"Our South Melbourne apartment was about 80 square metres, our farm is about 72 hectares - the difference was massive," Ms Brown said.

"The property has a big old farmhouse on it - not heritage-old but old enough to have a lot of gaps in the floors and walls - it's an ongoing project."

The couple bought the property south-west of Geelong in December 2018 and moved in about five months later.

"When we bought it, it was green and lush and when we settled it was really dry and dusty and I was panicking thinking 'what have we done'," Ms Brown said.

But what followed was two months of "flash flooding" in June and July 2019, causing dams to break their banks on separate occasions, almost submerging the property after one of the driest starts to the year.

"The flooding was stressful but set us up so well for having stock and being able to bale hay," she said.

Ms Brown and Mr Hayden come from farming backgrounds but received no financial assistance from their relatives when buying the property.

Both had siblings and did not want "any special treatment", but said frugal spending helped position them favourably to buy the property, Warriwillah Farm.

"Sam had been looking into this for the best part of three years and we had an investment property and our apartment in Melbourne so we had to sell everything to finance the move," Ms Brown said.

"We've always saved a lot of our money and Bryan, Sam's dad, is in real estate and encouraged him to invest in property from a young age."

Mr Hayden's father, Bryan Hayden, owns Buchan Station - an 800-hectare property in the state's east which was 90 per cent burnt during the December Gippsland bushfires.

Buying 'odds and sods' at the perfect time

At the peak of the NSW-Queensland drought, the couple bought "whatever cattle we could find" when prices for cattle were at some of their lowest prices in a decade.

In the peak, they ran up to 70 mixed breed cattle, fattening them on pasture and then on-selling them for a profit.

While numbers have been scaled back, ample feed supplies are promising given the couple have ambitions of buying in Angus cattle when prices ease.

As a civil engineer in the water industry, Ms Brown said the couple had taken a particular interest in regenerative farming and were looking for ways to minimise their costs and improve productivity.

Practices such as a large-scale composting system to regenerate the soil and fertilise pasture will have long-lasting benefits, while 1000 trees are expected to be planted on the property in the coming months.

Another area of interest is considering ways to improve water retention and capture runoff.

"I did an analysis on our catchments, storage and usage and also our demands and whether we were optimsiing the water cycle based on the current infrastructure," Ms Brown said.

"One example is how we increased the spillway on one of the dams so it could hold more water. It had a really good catchment and had the potential to increase capacity without impacts to infrastructure or safety.

"We've probably increased that dam's capacity by 15 kilolitres now."

The couple also undertook a cost benefit analysis about purchasing a mini desalination plant to re-purpose the saline water from an existing bore.

"We then did an alternative calculation on the catchment of the roof area including the shed and house and whether a larger tank would be a better investment," Mr Brown said.

"The tank is more viable at the moment that's based on the current demand of two adults but if we go down the path of having kids in the next few years, those demands will increase."

Mr Hayden and Ms Brown work full-time and dedicate their weekends, holidays and after hours to running the property.

One of the most rewarding factors of running the farm, according to Ms Brown, was challenging the stereotype of older generations about the most practical and sustainable ways to run a farming operation.

"You have to have a level of passion for the farm because as a young person it can be very overwhelming," she said.

"I'm passionate about the environment and see there's a lot of opportunity to follow that passion while living on the land so if people can save well and are passionate about farming, then that's a big help later on."

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