Danny and Vicki grow wheat for Kialla on their 1721 hectare property near Westmar on the Western Downs. Danny’s father bought the farm in 1972, mostly for cattle, and Danny took it over in 1988 after his father died. He was encouraged to begin farming it organically by some of the same early organic pioneers who organised Kialla’s first organic field day. The farm became certified organic in 1994 after the compulsory 3 year in-conversion process.
The farm is situated about 25km from the very small town of Westmar (comprising of simply a roadhouse and a school), and about 110km north west of Goondiwindi. Around 60%, or approximately 1000 hectares are given over to organic crop farming.
Initially, Danny was interested in the premium prices that grain growers could get for organic crops, however nowadays he sees a lot of other benefits to this kind of farming. Vicki is a big purchaser of organic food and, for her, farming without chemicals makes sense. Neither of them wanted to go down the chemical farming path as the land had been clean and chemical free when they inherited it.
Organic farming avoids the easy fixes available for conventional farmers (such as artificial fertilisers and pesticides), and often organic farmers share their experience and expertise to help each other along. Another farmer based at Moonie, who had gone into organic farming because he suffered from asthma, was able to help Danny with tips and new techniques to keep the farm viable.
However, 2010 was a tough year for Danny and Vicki when the big floods in the area ruined their crops and almost ruined them as well. Fortunately, Danny owned a truck and was able to go into cartage and freight until he was back on his feet and had enough capital to get back into farming. During this time, he leased his farm to his two sons-in-law who used some innovative equipment such as a sophisticated camera-directed interrow cultivator, to continue farming organically.
To maintain soil quality and yields of the brigalow-belah soils they rely on a few methods including ripping soil to increase moisture and promote oxygen content prior to planting, as well as using compost for fertiliser, and crop rotation to fix nitrogen. Danny will alternate his wheat crop with mung beans and millet, and occasionally sorghum, although he’s not a big fan of sorghum as a crop!
Danny’s son works with him and they have their own grain trucks so they deliver their own grains to the Kialla mill. In a few years, when Danny retires, his son will take over and it will then be up to him as to whether he continues to farm organically.