November, 2018

Rachel Needoba’s unique dairy products have an equally unique name.  Milk and yoghurt are produced in small batches, pasteurised, bottled and sold under the label, ‘Butterfly Factory’.  The logo has an image of a blowfly, not a butterfly.  Rachel explains that all insects are important to biodiversity.  Further, dairies and flies go together. It is an inspired name devised by her young daughter!

As Butterfly Factory products are very much hand made by Rachel herself they have none of the commercial aura of more profit-focussed dairy products.  At the same time, there are food safety requirements, regulatory systems and factory standards which apply, whether 400 litres are processed daily or 4 million.  In summary, the approach which Rachel has taken is more personalised.  Anyone who purchases Butterfly Factory milk or yoghurt, stocked by a select number of Melbourne and Gippsland outlets, two being in Warragul, might gain assurance that the milk is from one dairy farm only and handled and packaged by Rachel herself.

Women on Farms members visited the small factory in Warragul to observe and hear these points and to see how Rachel’s environmental and nutritional values are integral to her final products.  Much of what she has learned has been prompted by time she spent living in rural France where consumers appreciate and seek out grower marketed ‘local’ foods from the source.

The dairy herd supplying the raw milk is paddocked near Poowong.  The Fleckvieh breed, being dual purpose, has its origins in Swiss Simmental cattle.  They are reportedly easy breeders and produce  milk with good protein levels.  Their management entails once daily milking and being fed only on grasses and hay from the same farm. For dairy consumers who might have concerns about intensive cattle feeding with concentrates, grain and additives from unknown sources, this approach appeals.

Like so many of the solo producers whose farms we visit and whose produce we admire, Rachel is almost a one person band doing everything from pasteurising, dealing with bureaucracy, delivering, bottling, marketing and more.  Those of our group who sampled the milk and yoghurt were favourably impressed.

July, 2018

Women on Farms members had a lovely drive into the hills to Noojee. A warm fire and a warm welcome at the Outpost Restaurant awaited them. A twinkling Christmas tree and decorations everywhere provided a festive atmosphere.  Everyone was able to catch up while looking at the interesting photographs and old logging tools. A warm Christmas dinner with all the trimmings was appreciated with the plum pudding, custard and cream to finish. Thank you to the wonderful owners and cooks for a great day.




June, 2018

Tracey from ‘Renegade Drones Australia’

  • The most popular drone for amateurs is the Phantom 4 which are made by DJI in China
  • CASA is the regulator for everything in Australian air space.
  • A visual line of sight must be kept by any drone operator, this is a CASA requirement
  • Drones are only allowed to fly to 400 ft high because small aircraft are only allow to fly down to 500ft. Airways can alert you to all other aircraft in your area so no crashes occur.
  • The 400ft zone is measured from the distance above the land you are flying above, so if you fly your drone from a hill out over a valley care must be taken to keep the drone below 400ft at all times.

What can drones be used for?

  • Drones can be used to check crop health, they have a data card inserted that can record information on crop health that can then be removed and inserted into a tractors computer. This enables the farmer to only spray the areas of the crop that require spraying rather than the whole crop therefore less chemical spray is used. It can also be used to measure the height of pasture but not with great accuracy. The $45 thousand dollar drone (Monty) was demonstrated by Tracey. It is used for crop health surveillance and is controlled manually. The dual sensor camera photographs plants and does comparisons between photos of plants to average out what a normal plant should look like and what is different to normal. This data can then be removed from the drone and inserted via SD card into a tractor so that the right plants can be sprayed. Drones like Monty will be used flat out in the growing season but at the moment is only doing one farm a week on average.
  • Drones can be used by farmers on large acreage to boundary checks, although I’m not sure how this can be done if you must keep your device in line of sight at all times.
  • To be able to fly you need to be able to see 1.5km which is V.L.O.S (visual line of sight), but there is also E.V.L.O.S. which is Extended visual line of sight, and B.V.L.O.S which is Beyond visual line of sight, which could be used for example if the drone were flying on a ship with an obstacle between the drone and the operator. There would be a person with radio contact to the drone operator who would be within L.O.S and he would be in relaying information.
  • Another way drones are being used is to inspect high voltage power lines, battery life is not an issue in this role as they can apparently clip on to the power line and re-charge.
  • Drones are used for underground photography, ground penetrating imagery, locating water and archaeology.
  • There are drones called Illeos used in confined spaces like chimneys, mines, pipes tunnels and drains

What drones can’t be used for

  • Drones can’t be used to film at horse events or other sporting events
  • Drones must not be flown over a fire (bushfire, house fire etc.) because it has the capacity to interfere with observation aircraft or bushfire attack aircraft.
  • It is illegal to film children (if they are not yours or you do not have parental permission)
  • All footage is supposed to be accessible to CASA when required
  • Drones can cause panic in birds, wildlife, sheep and other animals. Magpies will swoop them and other predatory birds may attack them.
  • There is a free App called “can I fly” made for phones so you can’t say you didn’t know you weren’t allowed to fly there to CASA as an excuse if caught doing the wrong thing.
  • They can’t be used in public places without permission.
  • Most drones cannot fly in mist, rain, hail or snow as they are not sealed, but ‘Splash drone’ is and it can take pictures underwater.
  • Drones can’t be flown within 30m of people or buildings (except for paparazzi apparently)



General information

  • Fly neighbourly, don’t be an A-hole (Do to others as you would like them to do to you)
  • The Chinese company DJI is the major player in the drone making industry, other companies are; Alia, Foxtech and Kestrel.
  • Each drone has a unique identifying number
  • Drones can be programmed to follow the controller, even if the controller is in a car
  • Fines for the misuse of drones start at $6000
  • 2 People are employed to search u-tube for inappropriate footage taken by drones
  • A drone has a 20-40 minute battery life depending on the speed setting that has been used however the U.S. military are working on an electric drone that can stay airborne for 5 years without having to land.
  • As soon as the battery is dead a drone will drop, so they have a low warning and a critically low warning. These warnings can be manually set.
  • ‘Foxtech’ have a petrol generator powered drone that can fly for 5 hrs.
  • Lithium batteries can catch fire.
  • Batteries cost $250 each
  • In the A.C.T there is a trial being done on Burrito deliveries that are being delivered by drones.
  • There is little done in the way of maintenance and repair. Just get a new one. Dispose of batteries thoughtfully!
  • Not every drone is fitted with GPS equipment
  • The Australian army wants to train all soldiers on the use of drones.
  • They can handle winds of 35-40km/hr and can travel at about 47 km/hr and up to 67km/hr in sports mode
  • They are capable of automatic take offs and landings and will wait for instructions from the controller
  • The control screen will give a read out of height, speed, how many satellites it is receiving
  • China has access it information from your drone including where it flew but does not have access to what you recorded because that is stored on the SD card.
  • When flying inside a building there is limited access to satellite therefore no GPS so the drone will have difficulty holding its position.
  • Another name for drones is an Unmanned Arial Vehicle
  • Tablets are attached to the controller for a bigger clearer picture, the tablet is used to control the picture that the camera takes.
  • Drone registration will probably be required in the future.
  • The fixed wing drone which Tracey had on display was made mostly of polystyrene foam. It is launched by throwing manually and is easily broken, but parts are cheap to replace. For example the body which is often damaged on landing cost about $200.


  • Apparently we are not entitled to privacy in our own homes.
  • You cannot shoot a drone out of the sky, severe penalties apply
  • If a dog is annoyed by a drone and grabs it and breaks it, penalties do not apply!
  • Technically we own the airspace above our homes but CASA will be changing this

Pilots Licence

  • It costs $3.500 to do your remote pilots licence
  • It can be done at Lardner Park, you need 5hrs supervised flying time before final assessment
  • CASA runs the final theory exam.
  • During training you will be taught using drones without GPS capability and obstacle sensing equipment so that you learn to avoid hitting obstacles.

April, 2018

Saffron Willis, from Mirboo, South Gippsland on a sunny day was a wonderful. setting for the Women on Farms Discussion Group farm visit. Phyll and Ted Tierney are producing saffron, which they sell at farmers markets. Amazing views combined with beds of saffron, their purple flowers alive with bees were impressive.

The productive area of well-tended raised beds was the site for over 600 blooms picked in the morning harvest. Twice daily pickings go for six weeks from mid March to the end of April. After an early picking the stamens are picked out by hand with tweezers, into the dehydrator then packed for sale in bottles.

After the busy picking and weeding season a slight break occurs prior to the digging up of beds that are three years old for separation of the corms in October/November and replanting by mid January. Corms multiply from three to six corms annually. Sorting and replanting is a major undertaking in both time and effort.

Phyll and Ted support the Koonwarra, Cowes, Warragul, Traralgon and Inverloch farmers markets. Saffron is available for sale in small glass bottles. Jars of “Saffron Salt” are also available. Corms are available for sale after November.

Instructions on the infusion and use of saffron, along with complimentary recipes, combined with a fountain of knowledge from Phyll is happily provided. Saffron used in cooking should be infused prior to use for best results. This differs from just adding to the dish as is often the practice in televised cooking shows. Saffron can also be made up as a tea. One cup a day has been reported have many health benefits. As an antioxidant and anti inflammatory agent reports of improvement in degeneration of the macula of the eyes and joint pain are often shared.


February, 2018

Location, location, location!  We hear it frequently from real estate agents.  It also applies to agri-tourism. Trevor & Melissa Vanin are taking advantage of this important principle with their growing  farm gate business.

‘Fielderberry Farm’ at Cockatoo is a newly established berry enterprise – pick your own berries being the focus.  The property, with family connections going back a century, is in the Dandenong Ranges, adjacent to the Puffing Billy railway line, thus easily accessible from  Cockatoo or Gembrook.  With the streams of weekend and midweek tourists to the area, the location  is promising indeed.

Melissa and Trevor have ‘re-purposed’ seventy eight bush and grazing acres into  a tourism/farming business.  Raspberries, blackberries and blueberries have been planted on former grazing land adjacent to the forest.  The berries are grown mainly in trellised rows, with varieties chosen for their picking-friendly plants.  That is, the blackberries are all imported hybrids which bear no vicious thorns and which tempt with huge berries. As for how their flavour compares with the wild blackberry which plagues many land holders the WOF members had different opinions.

Melissa explained that there is considerable effort being put by plant specialists into cultivars of berry varieties, raspberries and blueberries also undergoing refinement with an aim to achieve longer growing seasons and heavier crops.

The plants they selected have been carefully identified to maximize cropping over as long a season as possible.  Nevertheless, at this stage the berry season in southern Australia tends to be between November and March. Some product is also sold to local restaurants, jams are made and sold off the farm. Trevor has built a ‘gypsy van’ as a mobile stall to take their crop to markets.

The couple has big ideas to include an eatery and accommodation on site.  With these proposals come  many, inevitable delays, permits, health regulations and insurance requirements.  Already there are the farming challenges to meet – soil alkalinity, bird plagues, pruning, weeding and pest animals. Seeing the energy and commitment displayed by Melissa, they should both succeed.

Lyn Link (President) & Melissa Vanin
Melissa & Members
Blueberry bushes
Delicious berries

























October, 2017

Farming is a fundamental activity, in that it is a close management of life’s essentials – soil, water, sunshine, animals, plants and human endeavour.  However, technology definitely has a vital place.  In fact, agriculture can be very high tech indeed.  In many instances it is technology and farmers’ capacity to innovate and change which can lead to great advances and success.

Visiting an award winning, sustainably run dairy farm was proof of this.  At Drouin South on ‘Minniebanks Springs’, the Mills family has a 3 unit robotic dairy. Solar power is collected, effluent is stored, treated then re-distributed as a soil improver, and fences are simple electric wires.  Use of a camera equipped drone assists in monitoring changes and recording progress.

Trevor and Anne-Marie Mills with their two children, Andrew and Kelly, run this picturesque 122ha (305 acre) property, milking 195 cows in peak times. Since taking over the farm from his parents in the 1990s Trevor aimed to enhance the environmental aspects of the farm by protecting all remnant vegetation from livestock and creating extensive new habitat for nature.  All waterways have been fenced and turned into wildlife corridors.  Bird and animal life are now abundant and in coexistence with the dairy herd.

In 2014 a decision to replace a herringbone dairy with robotics was based largely on reducing reliance on human labour. Three years on the cattle are calmer at milking times and Trevor reports the dairy is performing smoothly.

In recent years the Mills’ revegetated wildlife areas, protected waterways and treed, healthy paddocks have won  regional, Victorian and national recognition under Landcare awards.

‘Minnieburn Springs” is a delight to visit, with its healthy paddocks, stands of native timber and distant views. Importantly, as a 2nd generation farmer, Trevor has prepared the farm for passing on to the next generation. Not only is milk produced but calves are raised for the export market.  Should the children continue with the farm, the balance of modern practices with inherent respect for the environment will be theirs to continue.

September, 2017

While we live in a traditionally cattle farming area,  both dairy and beef herds, there has been an increased presence of goats. With their versatility as providers of meat, milk, fleece and companionship, goats are clearly popular animals. Goat meat is a valuable protein for a huge percentage of the world’s population. Still in the ‘niche’ category in Australia, goat flesh is gaining popularity.

Boer goat breeds are the recognized meat animals.  At Yarragon and Willow Grove the Lyons family breeds  two strains of Boers, one mainly white with a red head and the other red all over. The Boer was developed in South Africa in the early 1900s. The name is derived from the Afrikaans (Dutch) word boer, meaning farmer.

What a lot Women on Farms members learned about the husbandry and characteristics of these animals! Judy Lyons presented  her detailed knowledge, acquired from personal experience, of goat farming and marketing. The primary care includes worming, vaccination, hoof care and early castration of the males. The gestation period for does is five months, and if a multiple birth occurs hand feeding any rejected kids adds to the chores. Fortunately, fresh cow’s milk is usually adequate until the kids can graze.

These goats do better on pastures which re not too wet and where there is roughage such as shrubs to graze.  Minerals blocks are used to improve paddock nutrition. When it comes to slaughter the closure of the Giles abattoir presented a challenge. Halal slaughtering demanded by some customers can only be done at a Kyneton facility, adding to the time and expense.  Farmers markets in Pakenham and Dandenong have proven to be successful outlets due to the greater numbers of ethnic and Moslem customers. Regulations require that only live animals can be sold directly from the farm.

Interestingly, the Lyons’ biggest market at present is in young goats, sold as pets!  No wonder, as they are endearing, innocent youngsters. However, from the time of kidding, several wary alpacas guard the kids from fox and dog predation.