MILESTONE: Helen and John Coomber have been farming together for 50 years.
MILESTONE: Helen and John Coomber have been farming together for 50 years. Elyse Wurm

Farmers hit half century

THROUGH droughts and dingoes, thriving markets and raising children, Helen and John Coomber have done it all in their 50 years of farming.

The couple bought their Roma property, Airlie, in 1966 and moved in the next year after getting married.

Working the land ever since, they mainly stuck to their stock in trade of sheep and hay bales.

"We started off with sheep and we had a few cattle then we grew a bit of wheat,” Mrs Coomber said.

Travelling to the Warwick Sheep Sale about 10 times per year for the past 10 years, the couple are beloved visitors at the weekly auction.

"We went to Warwick when the Dalby sheep sales stopped,” Mrs Coomber said.

"We found it was a very friendly little town, we met a lot of very nice people and enjoy going down there.”

Making the 500km journey the evening before each sale, Mr and Mrs Coomber usually bring about 120 sheep to sell.

Last Wednesday was a particularly large load, with Frasers lending a hand so the couple could cart 504 sheep.

Prices were impressive.

"We're getting better prices than we've ever had,” Mr Coomber said.

"But we're in our 70s so we need to be slowing.

"We enjoy what we're doing but we want to do less of it.”

Looking to hand over the reins to their children and grandchildren in the next couple of years, the couple have experienced the evolution of Australian farming first hand.

Their tools of the trade have seen changes, as modern times brought new toys.

"From horses to motorbikes, smaller tractors to bigger ones,” Mr Coomber said.

"There were small bales of hay now they're big round ones.”

But the pair still plough their ground as a preference, only turning to poison in times of desperation.

A notoriously challenging way of life, working the land has been difficult at times.

"It has its ups and downs,” Mr Coomber said.

"We've seen a lot of droughts but we always come through.”

Mrs Coomber believes the good times outweigh the trying ones.

"We have gone through a few badder times but on the whole we've done pretty well,” she said.

"In droughts we usually have hay to see us through and we are having problems with dingos now.

"We've also got a couple of donkeys we think are helping.”

Having bought a caravan, the couple are planning to taking trips around Australia.

But the farm will never be far away.

"We'll probably never really retire,” Mrs Coomber said.

"We'll still be around but we'll just ease down a lot.

"The farm will stay in the hands of the family.”