In follow up to our first story 'Hermann Schulz - The Man Behind the Milk' we thought it only fitting that his son and lifetime dairy farmer Michael was next. Through the generations and iterations Michael has been a constant, working hard and producing top quality dairy year in, year out.
Michael was kind enough to put his story in his own words, so without further ado...
Following my parent's migration from Germany in 1954 they moved about western Victoria several times searching for job security. Their time was mostly spent in rural areas but there was also a four-year period when the family lived in Geelong. It was when I was 11 that we moved to a large grazing property in Gellibrand near Colac. This was my first real memory of actively being involved in farming activities. I learnt to drive tractors, motorbikes, bulldozers, ride horses and muster sheep and cattle. Here my love for agriculture evolved, as this property was very much a mixed farm, which also included potato growing and an intensive piggery.
It was when I was 16 that the family moved to Timboon. My parents had a hobby farm for a short time which they sold in order to buy the Timboon dairy farm. It was here that I was introduced into dairying but I was determined not to immediately go into farming once I finished school. I studied Agriculture for three years and then spent another three years travelling and working as a public servant before I decided that it was better to be self-employed on the farm. So in 1982, my career in dairy farming began.
In 1982 my father (Hermann) and my sister (Audrey) started Timboon Farmhouse Cheese. I had unfinished business with dairy farming, so I went down that path and it remained a separate entity to the Cheese factory. Timboon Farmhouse Cheese sourced all of its milk from the farm. The farm had been run under biodynamic principles for 10 years at this stage, but as the farm grew, it changed to organic certification. There are many challenges in dairy farming and the “game” is always changing; even more so with organic farming, as we rely on mostly traditional practices which are more labor intensive and require more input. I employ farm staff to assist with the work load and recently my focus has been on the overall planning and general management of the farm.
The local community has always been important to me and I am involved with the local football club and the local Recreation Reserve at Committee level. I am proud of the town of Timboon and that it is now a focal point of a regional “Foodies Trail” to which Timboon Farmhouse Cheese and more recently Schulz Organic Farms is a major contributor. The district now boasts many visitors.
Much has been written about the halcyon days when Timboon Farmhouse Cheese had a great range of products and that it was supplying portioned camembert (‘Berties’) to Qantas. Hermann and Audrey were the drivers of this enterprise; Hermann with his entrepreneurial drive and Audrey with her marketing skills. Both had outgoing and engaging personalities. Marlis (my mother) stayed in the background and kept the family together. I remember spending time socially with the different cheese makers that came to Australia, months at a time, to develop the cheeses. They all commented on how great our milk is to work with and that they hadn’t seen this quality before. In 2000 Timboon Farmhouse Cheese was sold to National Foods. National Foods continued to work at the site until 2008.
Fast forward nine years from the sale of Timboon Farmhouse Cheese and a new business had emerged, Schulz Organic Farms. There are similarities but the market focus is different. Simon started on very small scale and it took two years before the business produced a profit. Fast forward another six years and here we are, a booming regional family business. Today’s fresh milk market has enabled Schulz Organic Farms to grow at a rapid rate; in fact the farm is currently providing three times more milk to the factory in 2017 than it did in 2000. Simon’s goal to take all of the milk that the farm can supply is now within reach.