1. Please confirm family history and members including children, grandchildren?
I was born at Streaky Bay, SA, in 1933 – the third child but eldest boy. In 1939 my parents walked off their farm after depression and drought – along with 14 other families locally – leaving it to the bank. We were lucky though, as my maternal grandfather (a hotel broker in Adelaide) had a property at Keith which my parents went down to manage. The farm was surrounded by scrub and there was only a sandy track into Keith township (10 miles away) so we were home schooled until I was 11 years old. By then there were enough children in the area that an old van was converted into a school bus, which I had to ride the pony or a push bike 6 miles to meet! Often the pony or a push bike was quicker and more reliable. After school, I had wanted to be a geologist, but there was one choice “back on the farm”!
I met my first wife Alice whilst she was teaching at Keith and over the next few years Jose, Holly, Bridget and Guy arrived. After 18 years we divorced, and I had six years of bachelorhood before marrying Sue and adding our son’s Ian and Mark to my family. 40 years later our family is a wonderful vibrant unit – six children, 12 grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren!
2. Please outline a brief version of your business history?
Upon returning to the farm there was still debt even though my parents had sold half the farm to lessen the debt. There was 2,400 acres of which only 500 acres was cleared, the remainder being undeveloped native scrub. This country was found to be deficient in multiple trace elements and major land development was taking place with the objective of creating War Service Blocks for returning soldiers from World War II.
My father had a very conservative, traditional approach to farming, and we clashed. I worked for the neighbours until my father became President of the Stockowners and then I was needed at home as he was away a lot. In 1956, Alice and I moved into a shed on the undeveloped portion of the farm as we had been offered ownership of 800 acres. I bought a baler and started contracting as well as shearing and fencing – anything to gain a cash flow. Three years later my father suddenly died leaving death duties of GBP17,500 – which was nearly as much as the farm was worth. He left my mother and a much younger brother of 16 years. I had to manage the whole farm whilst trying to develop my own section, and all at the same time as the worst drought on record for our area.
I had always been keen to explore new ideas and felt that lucerne was a very underrated fodder plant. Having had a few paddocks sown to lucerne we