FARMING DE LUXE.
Lessons from Yorke's Peninsula.
Triumph of Scientific Effort.
I.—By a Special Reporter.
Some of the best farmers in the world are in South Australia. It is not provin-cial boastfulness to pay them that tribute, for they have earned it from much-tra-velled authorities. Farming to-day is not only a science, but also a pleasure to the man who keeps abreast of modern agri-cultural development. Take a trip to, say, Yorke's Peninsula, and see how these facts can be verified. Harvesting is now in full swing throughout the north. The men are in the field, and bags filled with grain dot the landscape everywhere like small companies of soldiers. The writer had the pleasure last week of a 400-mile tour of the wheat belt in company with Mr. Sam McKay (head of the world-famed Sunshine organization of that name), and Mr. M. Ridgway (Adelaide manager). We left Adelaide at 8 o'clock on Tuesday morning, November 30, en route for Brinkworth to meet Mr. Mc-Kay, who, after having travelled from Perth by rail, left tbe train at Port Augusta, and came down by motor. On the way through the lower north one saw some fine crops of field peas, the area under which has been increased considerably during recent years. It is esti-mated that there are 10,000 acres under peas this season, and headers equipped with a proper pea harvesting attachment are clearing up the fields at the rate of six bags to the acre. The yield, there-fore, is a considerable and valuable one. So far as wheat is concerned, although the returns are panning out fairly well, there is not the slightest doubt that pinched grain, and losses by wind, heat, and take-all will be responsible for reducing the average in many places. Mr. C. H. Lyons, of Wild Horse Plains, cited an instance of a man who had a large fields of oats, which suffered to severely that he did not trouble to harvest them. In the Brinkworth dis-trict prospects are promising, and Mr. S. S. Sergeant, in the course of a chat, remarked that the yield should be well up to the average. It had been an excep-tionally windy year, and a dry spell and hot winds had done much damage to early crops, but the late maturing varieties had benefited by good weather conditions. The late rains brought on a second crop, and this will mean that farmers will have to wait longer for a good sample, until the green wheat dies off before putting the bags in the stack. Land on the Condowie Plain has enhanced in value during recent years. That which was worth £4 an acre in 1912 is bringing upwards of £16 an acre to-day, and only recently a farm in the Brinkworth dis-trict changed hands at an average of £18 an acre. The Weckert family are farm-ing in a big way in this locality. The holdings of seven brothers and two nephews form a chain of 8,450 acres, ex-tending from Rochester to within a mile of Koolunga. Mr. H. Weckert, sen., did the pioneering, and won through in the face of many adverses, and to-day he enjoys a well-earned leisure in a fine home not far from the township.
Through to Maitland.
Having met Mr. McKay, we set out from Brinkworth for Yorke's Peninsula, with headquarters at Maitland. It was an unusual sight to behold a farmer actually using an old-fashioned stripper this side of Kulpara. It provided a strik-ing contrast to what delighted us later on. By way of comparison, it might be pointed out that one Yorke's Peninsula farmer, who expects to harvest 15,000 bags of wheat this season, reaped with all his machines in commission 900 bags—in one day! So soon as the motor reached the peninsula evidence of grand returns was presented. A tour of the peninsula at the present time would be a great educa-tion to any visitor. The extensive belts of clean chocolate fallows chequering the luxuriant level fields of golden grain re-veal how well the peninsula farmer does his work. The season on Yorke's Penin-sua was everything that could be desired until about three weeks ago, when severe north winds had a disastrous effect upon the earlier sown barley and wheat. A sub-sequent rain seemed to revive it, but another bad day gave it a further check, and consequently the sample is not so good and heavy as it otherwise would have been. Nevertheless, there are plenty of excellent crops about, and there should be a good average yield in that part of the State. The next article will deal with some of the peninsula men, and how they set an example by their thoroughness and modern ideas. After his first visit to Maitland Mr. McKay spoke in glowing terms of their activities.
"Object Lesson to Australia."
Mr. McKay remarked to the writer, "This was my first visit to Yorke's Penin-sula, and it is not too much to say that the district is unique. Perhaps in no other part of Australia are the farms so well improved. The farmers have taken great pains to equip their holdings, not only with beautiful homes and barns, but also with the finest equipment for cultivating their soil and harvesting their crops. I can say quite candidly that Yorke's Peninsula is an object lesson to the whole of the Commonwealth. One could not get anywhere else a more effective comprehensive picture of Australian farming."
Wonderful Power Farming.
We visited a dozen farms, but had time permitted we could have seen many more just as palatial. One thing that stood out more than another during the whole trip was the absolute evidence of faultless cultivation and comparative freedom from weeds. Yorke's Peninsula farmers are in a fortunate position in that, instead of allowing their land to lie fallowed as in other parts of Australia, they can sandwich in between a profitable barley crop after the wheat has been taken off, and then fallow for a year. And the peninsula not only has some of the best farmers, but also the best malting barley in the world. These men have solved the prob-lem of how to make rural life attractive.
Their homes are the last word in comfort— telephone, electric light, motor cars, and the latest agricultural implements and machines. In regard to the lastnamed, they are progressively receptive to new ideas in scientific power farming. They are not struggling experimentalists, but keen and practical business men, with sons for-tunately imbued with the same instincts. Proof of this might be found in the fol-lowing explanation. Two years ago at Merildin, in the north, for the first time in Australia, a machine called the auto-header harvested a crop of wheat at the rate of a bag a minute. This was not a theatrical "stunt," but an ordinary de-monstration of power farming. It was something considerably in advance of a tractor or horses drawing a header har-vester or reaper thresher. The main and exclusive features of this machine are that it is horseless and tractorless; and that its comb and knife extend right across its front, so that it will cut its own track right through the paddock of standing grain, collecting every head in its 12-ft. swath, and treading down none. A four-cylinder engine supplies the power, both to propel it through the crop, and to drive its various mechanisms, and one man only is needed to drive it at the rate of three to four miles an hour, while a man or a boy attends to the rapidly filled bags on a platform at the side of the machine. There are between 80 and 90 auto-headers in Australia, and farmers in this State own more than half that number. The majority are on Yorke's Peninsula. Gar-nering has been begun from eight to 10 days earlier than usual, and it is ex-pected that operations will be concluded by the third week in December. Already one sees big stretches of stubble every-where. The work has been completed on several farms on the lower end of the peninsula. The extraordinary variations in the weather recently emphasize the im-portance and advantage of getting crops off as quickly as possible. The machines are harvesting on an average 500 acres of grain, and should cope with 27,500 acres in the wheat belt this season.
What wonderful records in harvesting Yorke's Peninsula could put up if it were possible to work out in the fields from daylight to dark. On account of its proximity to the sea the dewy nights moisten the matured straw, and often operations cannot be begun until late in the morning. While motoring along after dinner we passed Mr. J. Honner's farm on the outskirts of Maitland. The sun was setting, and two men were complet-ing their day's work. They had started in a 150-acre crop going nine bags to the acre after 2 o'clock, and the auto header had accounted for a tally of 130 bags that afternoon. The platform of the auto at the time of our visit was carrying a dozes bags of grain. The farm hands confided to us that it had even accommo-dated 17 bags, but of course this was not a usual practice. Under this abnormal load the machine did not steer well, and the reason why they packed the bags on was that they were keen to finish off a paddock, and did not want to leave the filled bags down the other end of it. Mr. Honner has 880 acres under wheat and barley this year, and he has reaped more than 580 already. His new machine took off 235 bags of barley in a day in a crop that yielded six bags to the acre. Com-menting upon the season Mr. Honner said it had been the most peculiar one he had experienced. Showers and sunshine earlier in the year had induced heavy growth, but in the absence of subsoil rains imme-diately the crops struck severe weather they went back. The grain was a bit pinched, and his prospects were not nearly so good as they had promised to be.
What Weetulta is Doing.
Early after breakfast on the following morning, piloted by the Tiddy brothers, we motored nine miles across to Weetulta and called upon Mr. Harry Carmichael, who has been there since 1891. He has 700 acres under crop, and had already taken off 250 with the auto header. We saw it at work in sandy country with hilly-grades doing its work quite satisfac-torily. It was operating in a beautiful field of King's White and Daphne, which is returning seven bags to the acre. Mr. Carmichael referred to the extraordin-ary nature of the season—also the most peculiar he had experienced. A little more than a week before our visit he said that a hailstorm had struck the only bit of ripe wheat on his farm. Mr. Car-michael is proud of his auto header, and remarked that it was something different to the time when it was considered a good day's work for two teams to do from eight to 10 acres with the stripper. "A fairly good season and nothing to growl about," were the comments made by Mr. W. H. Bagshaw, of Weetulta, when we called him down off his auto header. He has 900 acres under crop, and was at work in a 140-acre paddock of Florence wheat, yielding 11 bags to the acre. He re-marked that he had not been "pushing" things, but on Saturday had taken off 320 bags of wheat and on Monday 310 bags.
Track Cutting Binder Left in Shed.
Two young clear-eyed farmers were enjoying life under up-to-date conditions at Mr. J. P. Ferguson's property at Weetulta, which comprises 3,000 acres. He has 1,100 under crop. They were driving the auto-header through a 120-acre field of Gluyas, which is giving eight bags to the acre, and had just finished a crop of Florence, averaging seven bags. They took off 280 bags of this variety in one day. One of the young men observed that Ford would be their best wheat this year, for they had a crop which should return from 30 to 33 bushels to the acre. Takeall was prevalent, and had affected the barley, which would not average more than seven bags. We passed on through Mr. S. A. Clasohm's, with its neat home-stead surroundings and fine concrete tanks, to a field where an auto-header was harvesting 200 acres of barley. The wheat crops were magnificent, particularly 400 acres of German Wonder, Currawa, and Ford, which should average 27 bushels. Another example of high-class farming was on Mr. B. A. Koch's property at Kilkerran, a few miles from the shores of Spencer's Gulf. His crops were looking well, although he said a dry spell in Sep-tember had brought down the average. However, we saw a splendid 75-acre crop of Ford, in which the auto-header was accounting for seven bags to the acre. Adjoining this was a lovely stretch of Currawa, 140 acres in all. Mr. Koch was delighted with his power-driven ma-chine. "There is no doubt about it," he remarked, "it is ideal for getting into a crop. I did not take the binder out of the shed this year to cut tracks." Fine buildings excellently arranged are seen at the headquarters of Mr. B. J. Koch's farm, which upon approach looks like a miniature village. It is the essence of neatness, and one shed resembles a pavi-lion at the Royal Showground. He has between 700 and 800 acres under wheat and barley, and has already taken off 350 with the auto-header. Wheat is turning out fairly well, and barley is not as good as usual— only about six bags to the acre.
14-year-old Boy on Header.
A beautiful sample of Ford, going six or seven bags to the acre, was seen at Mr. J. W. Moody's place at Kilkerran. His 14-year-old son pilots the auto-header sometimes. Another great sight confronted us at the property of Messrs. F. B. Smith and Sons, of Maitland. They rank among the biggest farmers on Yorke's Peninsula, and have almost 1,000 acres in crop. Al-ready 300 acres have been taken off, and we saw an auto-header at work in a fine field of 100 acres of Federation bordered by Daphne. The sons reported that this crop should return 30 bushels to the acre. It was on this farm that 900 bags of wheat were reaped in a day, and the progressive producers are anxious to reach the 1,000 mark. So much for scientific farming! There was more to interest us at the farm of a neighbour, Mr. J. Bell, of Maitland, who has taken off more than 300 acres of barley with his auto-header and other machines. He will shortly start on the wheat, which is just ripening. Mr. Bell was in the midst of putting barley on a motor lorry by means of a "one real horse-power" bag loader. He has taken away more than 1,000 bags of barley this season.
The lorry does six trips a day with a 55-bag load to Pine Point, 12 miles away.
A Champion Farmer.
Mr. Fred Greenslade's homestead at Urania was the next place of call, where Mr. Greenslade entertained us at after-noon tea. It was her 100-acre crop of Field Marshall and Major, by the way, which won the cup for the Yorke's Peninsula Suntyne combined drill and cultivator competition in 1923. Mrs. Greenslade is keenly interested in the activities of the farm, as well as in her beautiful home. She believes in keeping pace with modern developments so far as machinery is con-cerned. Mr. Greenslade has between 1,300 and 1,400 acres under crap in the fertile Yorke Valley. Commenting upon the vagaries of the season, he said, "We have only had 11¾ inches of rain this year. If the total had been 14, we would have had the best crop ever experienced. There has not been a drop of rain on it since it came out in head; in fact, we have not had five points of rain since the beginning of Octo-ber. I have never known such a thing to happen before. Wheat that should have yielded between 11 and 12 bags to the acre will only go seven or eight. Last year we only had 13 inches, and some crops ex-ceeded 14 bags to the acre. It looks as if we will have to try some dry-farming methods." Away in the distance one could see the auto-header going steadily up and down a golden crop.
More Splendid Object Lessons.
We had covered 100 miles that day round and about the peninsula by the time we returned to our hotel at Mait-land for dinner, and there was yet one more place to see. At nightfall we went out to Mr. F. H. Koch's fine property, at North Kilkerran. It filled us with ad-miration for this farmer to see the clean level fallows, and the businesslike man-ner in which he conducts his operations. Mr. and Mrs. Koch were absent when we arrived at the homestead, but they were ably represented by theier 14½ year old son—a healthy looking, intelligent youngster, whose home training and upbringing reflects great credit upon his parents. He told the writer that he had attended school at North and South Kilkerran. Now he is helping on the farm, and the ready way he answered questions with-out the slightest semblance of cheeky precocity was refreshing indeed. That boy will also be one of the world's best farmers some day, "Does you father suggest any improvement on the auto-header?" the boy was asked. The quick answer was, "He thinks the grain box might be a bit higher, so that he can dump the bags better." Alongside the header were arranged in neat rows of five, 130 bags of wheat, which had been harvested since 3 o'clock that afternoon. On the following Friday,. Mr. Koch broke all South Australian records by harvest-ing 48 acres of wheat in one day with one machine, giving an aggregate of more than 430 bags. Mr. Koch believes in working under the most comfortable conditions. He has made a cover for the auto-header out of two motor car hoods, so that the work can be done in the shade, and the dust minimised. It was a real "Rolls Royce" of the farming field! There is only one horse on Mr. Koch's farm, and this animal is used to take the children to and from school. He cultivates with a tractor, drawing a dozen sets of har-rows. Two motor lorries, carrying 75 bags of grain each, make five trips daily to Port Balgowan, seven or eight miles away.
Those who wish to gain a good insight into ideal agricultural methods should take a motoring trip through Yorke's Peninsula, and call in at some of the farms. They will learn much, and will always be accorded a welcome by these quiet speaking, modest, practical men, who are doing great service to their country.