DIVERSIFY TO SURVIVE: Farm gate opens online
SOUTHERN DOWNS tourist farms are heading online to evolve and stay relevant in a rapidly-changing economic climate.
Easter would usually be one of the busiest weekends of the year for Granite Belt Christmas Farm owners Katrina and Brad Fraser, but the pair were only faced with “quiet” this holiday.
“We’re coming into our peak period. We have an Easter festival on Sunday which usually brings around 500 people through,” Ms Fraser said.
“It’s like going from having a business to having nothing.”
Many tourists farms like Granite Belt Christmas Farm are struggling to work out how they can access support payments, being neither exclusively agriculture nor tourism, and unable to close down production completely.
“We’re not an essential service which makes it hard,” Ms Fraser said.
“The farm still has to operate, the trees still need to be pruned and sprayed.
“You can’t stop production of them, so there’s money going out but none coming in.
“It doesn’t help that the bushfires or drought also had such a big impact.”
Luckily for the Frasers, they were able to turn to turn to online as a means to continue business as normal as possible.
From listing 10 per cent of their stock online to almost 100 per-cent, the family was met with a groundswell of support for Australian business.
“All our Easter stock sold out online,” Ms Fraser said.
“It’s great to see Australians looking after small business because they’d usually go to department stores and not give a boutique a look-in but the buying local will be the only things keeping economies in regional towns going.
“You do what you got to do and diversify because otherwise you’re not going to make it.”
A popular lavender farm is going online too.
Aloomba Lavender Farm’s Tere and Peter Bonner are similarly moving online to stay safe.
“Easter is probably our best time of the year, so many people like to travel and they come in for the camping and to shop and to have Devonshire tea,” Ms Bonner said.
“It will be a big financial loss.”
The Bonners made the decision to close doors to abide by government regulations and protect Mr Bonner, who was already ill.
“We closed business straight away as soon as we saw writing on the wall,” Ms Bonner said.
“In terms or money it’s not too good because we have no income but we don’t want anyone coming in except nurses.”
To beat the financial slump and fill up free time, they were by making plenty of stock to mail out.
“I’ve been pretty productive in making things,” Ms Bonner said.
“I’ve been using the sewing machine and bottling up things and kept quite busy.
“We’ll have lot of stock for when this is all over.”
It was a way to make ends meat while the pair navigated support packages.
“Actually accessing the help is never easy,” Ms Bonner said.
“Anytime we’ve tried to apply for drought funds, there’s so many submissions to enter and then they go ‘sorry you’re not this, or you’re not that’.
“I’m grateful for the government help but I’m not too hopeful of it coming to much.”
Head to www.granitebeltchristmasfarm.com.au and aloombalavender.com.au to help support the cause.