In this, the International Year of Family Farming, the Uebergangs of Yandilla epitomise just how the faith and cooperation of one family can leave an ongoing legacy of good farming land for those who come after.
In 1935, Konrad Uebergang and his wife Meta arrived on the Downs from western Victoria with their young family and settled on part of Gore’s original Yandilla Station. They grew and prospered through running their holdings as one business, always looking after their land, and sustained by their strong Lutheran faith.
Now Lorna and her son Grant on East Lynn, and Charlie and his wife Susan on Hawthorne a few kilometres away, are growing crops on the fertile Condamine River flood plain. Like many Australian farming families, they wonder what the future holds.
East Lynn is already on the market and may well be sold by the time you read this story. Charlie and Susan’s three grown daughters would like them to keep the farm, but their parents ponder what lies down the track. They face a future where land prices are far beyond the younger generation’s ability to purchase the family farm.
Charlie has been farming for the past 44 years, since his father died when he was 12. Since she married Charlie, Susan has been an active participant in the family business, helping him make the big decisions, planning who does what during the busy times, and hopping behind the wheel of a truck to collect grain when needed. The best description I can think of is not “just a farmer’s wife” as Susan describes herself, but “helpmeet” in every sense of the word.
Charlie and Susan’s girls now have jobs off the farm. The eldest, Rebekkah (22), works at RAFF and is studying agronomy online; Maddie (20) completing her Occupational Therapy degree in Toowoomba; and their youngest, Caitlyn (18) works a couple of days a week at the Pittsworth Sentinel newspaper and also at the Brookstead State School Library.
After Konrad’s death, Meta Uebergang donated land so that the existing congregation could build a Lutheran church, St Paul’s. More than 100 people recently celebrated the 75th birthday of the congregation. They sang their way through the service, accompanied by their talented band and choir which includes Charlie, Maddie and Caitlyn.
Charlie says, “I want to leave the soil in a better condition for future generations,” and this applies whether the family stays on the farm or moves somewhere else. This is why he has always striven to be a sustainable farmer, learning from his uncles after starting farming so young. He has always been prepared to try new systems and machinery if it leads to more food on the table and money in the bank. Some of this money has been spent acquiring surrounding farms.
Like many family farmers, the Uebergangs have many recollections of a lifetime on the land, including memories of being marooned by floods, the loss of Charlie’s family home to fire in 1966 and ongoing battles with drought.
Words by Wendy Moline