Broadacre 2004-2010

‘The farm isn’t the paddocks and the crops and the machinery, the farm is you.  And without you, the farm isn’t worth anything.’

HerefordsSustainable Farm Families received funding from RIRDC to follow up with our original broadacre farmers to look at the impact of the program.  Following valuable feedback from SFF participants, we designed the fourth year workshop to include important topics of respiratory health and agri-chemicals.

About the program

This project integrated key farmer health issues with mainstream rural research, applied farm management analysis and quality assurance programs. By including farm family health indicators into farm management planning both health and farm management issues were addressed.
This project depended on bringing together a team of primary producers, health professionals, industry representatives and university academics that were committed to making the health of rural farm families a priority.
Through the member’s dedication, patience and assistance in making the research project the catalyst of new research, further programs and evidence based practice that will assist in making the health of rural farm families a priority in Australia.
This project had wide social and economic benefits addressing rural social health issues that had been largely overlooked in farm management development.

Broadacre program partners

Recognition must be given to the collaborative partners for their ongoing support and dedication to the support and promotion of rural farm family health, wellbeing and safety.  The goal of improving the health, wellbeing and safety of farm families was always a priority for the program and the success of the program reflects this dedication.
For funding support we thank the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation – managed Joint Venture for Farm Health and Safety, whose partners include:

  • Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation
  • Grains Research and Development Corporation
  • Sugar Research and Development Corporation
  • Cotton Research and Development Corporation
  • Australian Wool Innovation Corporation and Dairy Australia

We would also like to recognise our collaborative partners in this program:

  • Farm Management 500
  • LandConnect Australia
  • Australian Women in Agriculture
  • RMIT University
  • Victorian Department of Primary Industries
  • Meat and Livestock Australia
  • Victorian Farmers Federation


This project was funded by the RIRDC-managed Joint Research Venture for Farm Health and Safety, whose partners include:

  • Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation
  • Grains research and Development Corporation
  • Sugar research and Development Corporation
  • Cotton Research and Development Corporation
  • Meat and Livestock Australia
  • Australian Wool Innovation Corporation
  • Dairy Australia.

Case study

Excerpt from Groundcover February – March 2006
When South Australian farmer Richard Burgess received a flyer about a pilot health program, he put it in the bin.  Now he is an enthusiastic advocate for it.
Richard and his wife Jody are members of the Farm Management 500 mid-north group and were invited to participate in the Sustainable Farm Families project.  When the couple received the flyer about the workshop, Jody was going on her own.  ‘They were keen on couples so Richard eventually decided to come,’ she said.
Twenty people participated in the initial two-day workshop, held in Clare in February 2004.  The first session started with benchmarking, taking details of each person’s general health that included fasting cholesterol, blood glucose, blood pressure, weight, height and body fat.  ‘The SFF team spent a reasonable amount of time on health concerns such as cancer, diabetes, stress and cardiovascular disease,’ Richard says.  ‘There were a lot of statistics on how country people were less healthy than city people.’
Jody adds: ‘I was also interested in health and this went into greater details.  We learnt a lot about cholesterol and it made me want to get to school and discuss healthy eating.’  Richard and Jody have four boys and healthy eating has always been a priority.
One of the activities held at the workshop was a trip to the local supermarket for an exercise in reading the labels of different food products.  ‘It was an eye-opener for many people, Jody says.  ‘Just how much sugar, fat or salt is contained in many of the products we feed the kids.’
Other topics included mental health and how to recognise anxiety and other pointers to more significant health problems.
At the end of the two-day session each individual or couple were asked to detail an action plan to improve their health, wellbeing and safety and plan ways they would achieve this.  Richard and Jody say ‘common goals among the group included lowering cholesterol levels, maintaining a health weight, addressing farm health and safety and improving diet’.  ‘We set out to reduce our fat intake and also purchased treadmill.’ Jody said.  ‘A lot of participants went out and bought push bikes and couples started going on walks together.’
A second session was held 12 months later and began with the health assessments.  ‘My cholesterol and weight were both down and some people had lost quite a bit of weight.’ Richard says.  A third and final session was to be held.
The innovative program has brought health information to country people in a style that is both interesting and informative.  ‘I wish we had something like this 20 years ago, Richard says.  ‘It should be an on-farm training program through TAFE or something else.’  Jody adds: ‘It certainly made us feel more fallible.  We are always too busy to worry about health and after the course we reviewed our life insurance.’
Both Richard and Jody think the course would be ideal for the wider farming community.  ‘I was dragged there kicking and screaming but am now an advocate for anyone who would want to do the program,’ Richard says.

Publications and reports

Living Longer on the Land: Sustainable Farm Families in Broadacre Agriculture [PDF 2.4mb] This Report provides a glimpse of the current health status of rural farming families.  It increases our understanding of what affects farming families’ health and identifies measures to improve their health wellbeing and safety.  Many of the specific strategies to improve farming family health were provided by farmers themselves.


What participants said about the Broadacre programs 2004, 2006 & 2010


01-01-07 Healthy farms need healthy farmers – Excerpt Groundcover [PDF 193kb] 2006
01-03-06 Learning the healthy way – Excerpt Groundcover [PDF 24kb] 2005
15-10-05 District project boosting farm safety across state – The Standard [PDF 3.2mb] 2004
01-09-04 Cleaning up country living – Excerpt MLA Prograzier [PDF 391kb] 01-05-04 Sustainable Farm Families – Excerpt Ag Impetus [PDF 538kb] 01-05-04 Farmers health examined – The Spectator [PDF 411kb] 01-03-04 Focus on farming family health – Excerpt FM500 Newsletter [PDF 267kb] 2003
24-09-03 Bid to elevate health as a key farm issue – The Weekly Times [PDF 157kb] 06-09-03 New project aiming to boost health of farming families – The Spectator [PDF 444kb]


SFF Broadacre Newsletter No.4 – Sep 2008 [PDF 259kb] SFF Broadacre newsletter No.3 – Aug 2005 [PDF 323kb]
SFF Broadacre newsletter No.2 – Dec 2004
 [PDF 939kb]
SFF Broadacre newsletter No.1 – May 2004
 [PDF 255kb]