TONY Morrison is proud of his family history, steeped in the pioneering Chisholm clan.
So it’s not without a pang that he’s selling the last Chisholm property in the Goulburn district to Sydney interests.
In three months he and wife Sue will leave the 1500- acre plus South Raeburn holding at Breadalbane, their home and livelihood for nearly 50 years. They’re shifting to a smaller property just west of Goulburn.
“It’s time to move,” Mr Morrison said.
“We don’t still want to be running the place when we’re 80 and we don’t want to leave it to our children to sort out.
“It’s part of the changes that are happening; together with successive generations, properties are becoming smaller and there are more opportunities off farm.”
As Mrs Morrison forthrightly says: “Nothing lasts forever.”
The days are gone when Mr Morrison’s great-great grandfather James Chisholm could carve off 10,000 acres of his massive 40,000-acre estate for one of his nine sons. In subsequent years Clan Chisholm held numerous well known properties in the Goulburn district including James’s home Kippilaw, Merrilla, Winderadeen, Lerida and Raeburn.
The latter was split in 1965 for the three daughters of Gerald Chisholm, including Margaret, Mr Morrison’s mother, who received South Raeburn. North Raeburn was sold in 2010.
Mr Morrison said he never thought he’d be the last one to sell. The property has been on the market since 2011 and a sale was negotiated late last year.
“But it’s the right decision and we want to get out while we’re fit,” he said.
The couple has many fond memories, including the numerous charity fundraisers hosted in their famous and historic woolshed. There have been fashion parades for Goulburn and District Palliative Care, bush dances, private parties, school events and many community gettogethers.
The shed was designed naturally for shearing, with a raised board, but also as a hall, which Breadalbane lacked.
The original Chisholms’ penchant for community involvement ran through the generations; Mr Morrison’s grandmother donated land for Breadalbane’s church while he has given land for the hall and park.
Continual on-farm improvement has been another bugbear of the former NSW Farmers Association Goulburn branch president.
“There have been some massive changes here, though quite incremental, in the past 50 years. You have to keep up with the times,” Mr Morrison said.
“We’ve tried something new every year. It keeps you in the game.”
A focus on productivity and turnover has taken South Raeburn from a traditional merino property to one concentrated on prime lambs and cattle and top quality pasture. Once it was 80 per cent reliant on wool but now it’s closer to 20pc.
More recently the Morrisons have used recycled sewage, comprising 50pc sewage ash and 50pc lime, to fertilise pastures, at the same time correcting soil acidity and boosting productivity.
• Riding the downturn
There have been plenty of tough times too.
From the wool boom of the 1950s when they took up the property, drought gripped in the early 1970s and started the industry’s decline.
Sheep that made it to market sold for as little as $4/head. Elsewhere, they were simply being shot.
Nationally the flock dwindled from 180 million to 100m.
“We never shot a sheep or cow but there were farmers who shot both,” Mr Morrison said.
“I don’t subscribe to the idea farming is a tough life but it certainly has its moments. (Other times) you drive around and just say to yourself how beautiful the place is.”
They lived through OJD and what he described as its mismanagement and the abolition of the wool floor price, driven largely by Goulburn district grazier Jim Maple Brown.
Mr Morrison was involved in many of these issues through NSW Farmers. He also chaired the Goulburn Saleyards Committee and spoke his mind on delays in building the proposed new facility in Mazamet Rd.
All the while he’s been deeply involved in Landcare, even before the movement started in earnest, and has taken a deep interest in pasture improvement on South Raeburn.
The Morrisons have also witnessed changes in their village. When they moved to the property, Breadalbane boasted a store, service station, school for 30 children and a post office. Now there’s just a school for eight students.
The stresses have changed the nature of farming. In this area Mr Morrison sees greater subdivision, to which he believes Goulburn is suited, and the trend creeping increasingly to Upper Lachlan due to planning law changes.
“There are opportunities there but I personally couldn’t subdivide this place. It would be vandalism because it is a beautifully crafted working property,” he said.
“But for the rest of the country, if families can survive and retain economic areas of 2500-3000 acres, I can only see increasing areas of the region being amalgamated and sold to people who can afford them and a more corporate, rather than family structure arising.”
Mr Morrison said it had always been his goal to pass the property on to his children but the “terms of trade had changed” and graziers needed much larger tracts to make a living.
The buyers of South Raeburn plan to run the property in its current form.
For his part, Mr Morrison plans to “stay involved” in farming in one way or another, But the couple also has other interests to pursue, some travel and time with their three children and grandchildren.
“We’ve bought and sold about six places in our time and you just move on,” Mr Morrison told the Post.
“But we’ll have special memories of this place because it’s been a lifetime’s work. It’s been an adventure.”