ENGLISH student Charles Matthews always wanted to try his hand at an Australian winter-crop harvest.
Growing up on a mixed-farming operation near Salisbury in Wiltshire in southern England, the 18-year-old had more experience than the average harvest casual.
However, nothing could prepare him for the extreme difference in magnitude between a 405ha farm running cattle and growing grain, and 9000ha of wheat and canola ready to be harvested.
“It was a massive, massive scale,” Mr Matthews said.
“There was a lot of bush out there as well that was very untouched which is quite interesting.”
Working between two properties located near Esperance and Albany and owned by the Fetherstonhaugh family, Mr Matthews said the hours were long, but the work was enjoyable.
“It was quite long hours to get it all through; it is expected and the same as back home.
“They were quite good at managing hours because there was a big team of us.
“I was on the chaser bin for the harvest which was really good fun and similar to what I was doing back in England.”
Mr Matthews was one of five international harvest casuals at Orandeen Farms with two from Scotland, a Canadian and a Kiwi.
Despite an Australian and English grain harvest sharing basic similarities, he said the WA property required more machines to get the harvest done in time.
“We had four headers and then three chaser bins at WA. At home we have one header and three trailers, because we don’t have chaser bins so much back in England.
“We do in the big-scale ones, but mainly farm to farm it is just trailers.
“The amount of hectares… you get through in a day is unbelievable.
“Back home you are constantly taking the front off the header the whole time changing from paddock to paddock where here they go for the long runs.”
The smaller size of English farms means growers opted to plant crops closer together than in Australia.
Mr Matthews said this method, combined with richer soils and higher moisture levels, resulted in higher yields to the English growers.
“You can get yields up to [10 to 12 tonnes per hectare] especially for wheat.”
Despite the long hours and hard work, Mr Matthews said his experience in WA farming “was brilliant”, and he would recommend it to other students looking for casual employment.
“I would 100pc recommend it; I had a brilliant time, and it was a lot of fun.
“All the farmers out in WA were really nice and friendly, similar to the ones in England.
“It was a brilliant atmosphere; if you go to the pub, everyone seems to know each other.”
Mr Matthews said he was now looking forward to doing some more travelling before beginning university studies in agricultural business.
He said the experience has given him new insights into agriculture.
“To see a whole different side of farming…and to see how different it is to the farming in England, it has definitely broadened my mind.
“I’ve learnt a lot and done a lot of things I wouldn’t have done at home.
“It has definitely helped going forward.”
- Charles Matthews brought a camera-equipped drone with him during his Australian harvest adventure, capturing the images in the video at the top of this page.
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