Loyalty a core value for Giffords

Rueben HaleThe West Australian
English ex-pats George and Sally Gifford on their lush and picturesque Gingin cattle farm.
Camera IconEnglish ex-pats George and Sally Gifford on their lush and picturesque Gingin cattle farm. Credit: Rueben Hale

For English ex-pats George and Sally Gifford, the decision to leave their farm back in the UK and move to Australia has made for a wonderful life.

The couple, who moved with their four children from a mixed farming enterprise in Wiltshire to Perth in 1990, have become known for their contribution to the industry and Gingin, the town they now call home.

The Giffords run 220 Angus breeders on their farm, which they have done for many years, even during the highs and lows of the industry.

The move from their farm in England while their children were in the last years of school and university was a difficult but worthwhile decision.

Mr Gifford said since driving around Australia with a friend in a Volkswagen Beetle in 1966, he had always had a soft spot for WA and decided he would one day make it his home.

“Farming was always part of my life because I had grown up on my father’s dairy farm where, as a boy, the cows had to be milked each day by hand,” he said.

“Sally and I were looking to find a suitable property when we first arrived in Perth, with our four children Louisa, Holly, Jo and the youngest, George Jr,” he said.

“We were open to buying anywhere from Albany to Geraldton that was suitable because good country always tends to look the same no matter where you happen to be.”

But property hunting plans were put on hold for the family after Mrs Gifford was refused to be sent any particulars of farms for sale in her husband’s absence.

Mr Gifford had returned to England in the early part of the family’s first year of settling in Australia to complete the sale of their farm, as had their older daughters, Louisa and Holly, to finish their university studies.

“I asked Elders and Wesfarmers to send me some particulars of properties for sale, as before George had left he’d asked me to get in touch with some agents and to look at some farms which may have been suitable for our needs,” she said.

“I suppose in hindsight it didn’t help that I had a very pronounced English accent but I was a little surprised at the time when I rang them up and all they said was ‘wait, little lady, until your man arrives home’.

“I found their attitude especially surprising because at this time the interest rates were at 17 per cent and farms were for sale everywhere, with people desperately trying to sell up and get themselves out of debt. But looking back on the whole thing now I wasn’t offended.

“I just reconciled to myself at the time that I was a new person in a strange country, so there was little point concerning myself too much about it.”

Mr Gifford said the delay in looking for a property turned out to be a blessing after being recommended to look at the Gingin property by an agent who had rented them temporary accommodation in South Perth, adding that as migrants with four children, and of no fixed abode, that had not been easy.

“The agents had told my wife they would get in contact with me when I arrived back in Australia, but by the time I arrived back, everything had shut down for Christmas,” he said.

“Meanwhile, I was shown some other properties organised by the South Perth agent we had got to know and by the time they had got around to inviting us to view some properties, we’d purchased the farm in Gingin. As soon as we saw how lush and beautiful it was we knew it was the place we’d been searching for.”

These days the Giffords look back and smile, while keeping an optimistic eye on the future.

“This year we will turn off about 200 head of cattle, which is about what we’ve always done on this property comfortably,” Mr Gifford said. “Even though the industry is doing very well at the moment and many producers are tempted to overstock their properties, we’d prefer just to keep going with what we know we can achieve.”

Mrs Gifford said they had learnt the value of loyalty after moving to a new country and making a success of farming. “Our car is a Ford and we’ve always bought Fords because when we arrived we had no fixed address,” she said.

“Centre Ford were prepared to give us a go and trusted us with a free car while the car we wanted to purchase came in. Because of that trust we’ve repaid them with loyalty to the brand ever since.

“I think the people that help you when you are in a strange environment, well strange to you in those early days, you have a special place in your heart for them.”

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