“La Casa is a growing family business, just like ours. Their encouragement for us to grow has been there right from the start and they have backed that up with a strong price.” Perrin Hicks
Perrin Hicks’ passion for the South Australian dairy industry is almost unrivalled.
As a teenager, Perrin would regularly help out on his friends’ family farms, milking cows and pitching in wherever he was needed.
His parents – both teachers – had no background in dairying, but cottoned onto their son’s passion early on, buying Misty Downs Dairy at Tooperang, south-east of Mount Compass, 27 years ago.
It was a small dairy, but it was enough for Perrin and wife Kelly to get their foot in the door of the industry and put that passion into productivity.
From those humble beginnings milking 80 cows, the Hicks have forged their path in the industry, now farming in partnership with the Jacobs family under the business name Hicks-Jacobs Dairies across two milking platforms, Whispering Pines and Misty Downs.
That partnership commenced on 1 July 2014, the same day Hicks-Jacobs Dairies became one of La Casa Del Formaggio’s foundation suppliers.
“I was managing Whispering Pines, owned by Warren Jacobs, but wanted to re-establish Misty Downs and run my own farm,” Perrin said.
“Warren offered me a partnership and after some deliberation, Kelly and I took him up on the offer.
“It was mutually beneficial to both parties as we were looking to get a foothold in the industry and Warren was looking towards retirement.”
Hicks-Jacobs Dairies operates across a mix of owned and leased properties, including Misty Downs which is leased from Perrin’s family.
In his time managing dairy farms in the region, Perrin had felt some of the hardship the industry had experienced through challenging conditions and unsustainably low milk prices.
Therefore, when the partnership was established, he was keen to supply milk to a processor who paid above the cost of production.
“We had heard that La Casa was interested in sourcing milk directly from local farms,” Perrin said.
“We attended a meeting with Claude Cicchiello and other La Casa representatives to hear more from them about what they could offer us, but they also wanted to learn from us as farmers about the issues we were facing.
“They were surprised to hear that some processors were paying farmers below the cost of production and they agreed with us that it shouldn’t be happening.”
Perrin acknowledged that there was a level of risk at the start of the agreement to supply milk to La Casa, but it did not take long until they felt very comfortable choosing La Casa as their processor.
“The communication of Claude, as well as the milk supply team in Wayne Lyons and Ty Maidment, was fantastic and it has continued to be since that first meeting eight years ago,” Perrin said.
“That level of communication is something we value very highly. Being able to ask questions and get answers back quickly is very valuable to our business.
“La Casa is a growing family business, just like ours. Their encouragement for us to grow has been there right from the start and they have backed that up with a strong price.”
As one of La Casa’s first suppliers, Perrin said he feels a senses of pride to have seen the company grow to the point where it is now investing $35 million in a new factory at Edinburgh Parks.
“It will be a fantastic thing for South Australia and a fantastic thing for La Casa as they have outgrown the factory at Glynde,” he said.
“Claude has been talking about the new factory for a while. We know it has been carefully considered and the time is right to do it.
“La Casa makes great products and the demand is there for them to grow.”
Hicks-Jacobs Dairies has been on a growth trajectory of its own in recent years. Improvements such as solar panels, extending the Misty Downs dairy and using sexed semen and genomic testing to improve their herd has all added up to more production and ultimately profit.
“Those improvements, as well as others, have been made possible by being paid a sustainable milk price above the cost of production,” Perrin said.
“La Casa wants to see its farmers doing well because when we do, they get more milk. The company has also taken an active interest in our local community and have come on board as a sponsor of the Mt Compass Football Club.
“They’ve been sponsors for more than four years now and that willingness to give back to the community is a great thing.”
To find out more about becoming a La Casa Del Formaggio milk supplier, contact:
• Wayne Lyons, 0409 400 490
• Ty Maidment, 0413 126 073