He goes by the name, Big Farmer Andy. This bloke has turned his dairy farm into a source of intrigue and fascination, with an online following of more than 300,000 people.
He aims to bridge the divide between city and country people by sharing snippets of his life on the land with humour. He’s also not afraid to challenge those with opposing views. And is a strong advocate for mental wellbeing, sporting a very fine mullet for mental health.
Andy is a third generation dairy farmer in Australia, but the business was in his blood long before that. “My grandfather came from Holland to Australia in 1936 and came from a dairying family. However, the Great Depression ended that.
“So, he leased some land not too far from here in Australia, for the best part of 10 years. On the neighbouring property, my grandmother was growing up. One thing lead to another there. They bought this place in the 1940s and we’re still here today,” Andy recalls.
A farming celebrity
It sounds like a relatively quiet life, so how did Andy end up becoming a bit of a celebrity in the dairy world?
“I got a nose job!” he laughs. “Unfortunately, not a cosmetic one. I couldn’t breathe properly, so I had to have an operation back in November 2020. I had two weeks off where I was high as a kite on painkillers. I wasn’t allowed to drive or do anything. I had some old videos on my camera roll, so I thought I’d give this TikTok thing a go. They did well and I’ve kept it up,” he says.
It opens the door to conversation with people you otherwise wouldn’t have spoken to.
At the current count, Andy has 378,000 followers and 10 million likes. “Strange isn’t it. I never expected it to blow-up, but it did pretty quickly. So, for the last year or so I’ve been like an E or F list celebrity! People know who you are around the place. That’s nice. I like that because it opens the door to conversation with people you otherwise wouldn’t have spoken to.”
More than that, Andy loves to show city people a farming perspective, to educate and advocate. Thankfully, for his followers, that also involves a lot of humour. “I’m someone who can just be myself completely and help further agriculture in Australia.”
Breaking down myths and stereotypes
Andy also isn’t afraid to tackle controversial issues, should they come up. He regularly engages with people who have opposing views.
“I think it’s really important to stand up for what you believe in but also to be polite and diplomatic about it all. But if someone is saying something which is incorrect and is a stain on your character and your profession, I think there’s nothing wrong with pointing that out and letting them know they are wrong,” he explains.
I think it’s really important to stand up for what you believe in but also to be polite and diplomatic about it all.
Some of the questions have come from vegans in the past and Andy happily engages in a meaningful discussion and provides a real-life snapshot of his day, that isn’t curated in any form.
“A lot of the time unfortunately it wasn’t too pleasant. On occasions though, you would get people who’d change their perspective. You can’t be any more transparent than filming an animal. I can’t control what the cows and calves do. I can’t make them stand in a certain way. I’m just filming what’s happening. I’m as transparent as I can be.”
Andy describes some very uncomfortable moments. “You get some people who believe dairy farmers are blood-thirsty maniacs. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Dairy cattle have very generous lives where they are well fed and kept in a clean environment. They have to be. If you want to have a good result for your farm, your animals have to be in tip-top shape.”
A day in the life
A normal day for Andy starts very early and ends very late, for the morning milking and the afternoon milking. That’s every day, seven days a week. Followers enjoy peeking into that world, but the calf videos seem to be the biggest hit.
“I enjoy going up to the newborn calves and having a bit of a chat with them. I rear the calves on the farm here, so I very much enjoy them.”
What people don’t see perhaps is how hard making a living off dairy has been for the last few decades and the isolation that comes with life on the land.
“I’m lucky that I have TikTok and I’m able to express myself through that. Otherwise, your social life is very limited and you’re always working!” Thousands of dairy farmers have left the industry in the last decade but there has recently been a welcome bump in pricing.
“Definitely, you go to meeting now and dairy farmers have diminished. But that’s true, we did get a price increase. We haven’t got our first pay just yet, but the price has gone up to help meet inflation,” Andy explains.
Advocating for mental health
His followers aren’t the only ones who’ve learnt from the experience. Andy believes he’s learnt how to communicate more effectively and efficiently.
“I’ve also learnt there’s a lot of good in the world. It’s definitely helped me grow as a person, that’s for sure.” The added bonus for Andy, is he now has a platform to promote mental health, which is a great passion of his.
I want people to know there are others out there facing the same things. And there are others out there who are willing to listen and who want to help.
“My mother had a number of brain injuries about five years ago and she was in brain injury rehab for a number of years. In with my mother, was a young woman who had attempted suicide and it had left her brain injured. I also know, in my life, three young men who have died from suicide.
“I know there are a lot of people in the community who struggle and suffer in silence. I just want people to know how preventable suicide is. I want people to know there are others out there facing the same things. And there are others out there who are willing to listen and who want to help.” Andy wants people to embrace it, talk about it and hopefully get some help.
You may also notice, Andy is sporting quite the mullet to raise money for the Black Dog Institute. To donate, head to the Big Farmer Andy Instagram or TikTok page and follow the link in his bio.
Longer term, Andy would like to represent country people through a career in politics. “I’ve been blessed with big bloody lungs, a brain that’s good at talking and a heart that wants to help.” So, watch this space.