Regulation rules for Rose

Jo FulwoodThe West Australian

This time last year, Burekup farmer Peter Rose turned off 1000 fattened lambs and made 500 rolls of silage from his almost 100ha in WA's pristine South West.

Perhaps, at first glance, these statistics aren't that astonishing.

Not until you realise Mr Rose is 91 and not looking like hanging up his farm boots any time soon.

"Officially" retired from the business in 2010 at 86, Mr Rose still lives on family property just outside of Bunbury and when he isn't in the paddocks, he spends much of his day in his extensive vegetable patch.

When he retired five years ago, he was fattening up to 8000 lambs annually depastured on lucerne, producing up to 3000 tonnes of potatoes and making 3000 tonnes of hay, predominantly on additionally acquired property at Myalup west of Harvey - 40ha of that land was irrigated.

That property has since been sold and Mr Rose remains on family land at Burekup.

Despite his semi-retired status, his passion for agriculture, and in particular horticulture, hasn't waned.

The Roses are one of the oldest farming families in the South West.

The business was founded in 1853 and Mr Rose was the third generation, with his two brothers, to take over the business.

"When the Bunbury member of the Rose family died in 1899, they had a substantial area of land under their ownership in the region," he said.

"They were first farming at the head of the Leschenault estuary, and later expanded by acquiring land in the Roelands region.

"While it wouldn't have yielded much in the way of income through productive agriculture, the size of the business was significant at that stage."

The three Rose brothers, Frank, Peter and Gerald, farmed jointly with their father until his retirement in 1950, and then as a trio until 1980 when the eldest brother retired.

"We were a trio with husbands and wives," Mr Rose said.

The remaining brothers farmed as a partnership until 1995.

"In 1980 we had expanded, acquiring undeveloped land," Mr Rose said.

"Developing new land, and farming from the 1950s was exciting and rewarding.

"By 1980 we had a stand-alone dairy activity and our elder brother Frank agreed to take this over, so he retired from our partnership.

"I was the entrepreneur of the business, but each of us had a niche in our business activities."

The brothers farmed potatoes, dairy, hay and livestock across their various properties, with Mr Rose saying the dairy business had always proven the most profitable business to come from grass and pasture production. However, his focus throughout his career remained predominantly in potatoes.

"The core income of the T.H. Rose & Sons business was always potatoes," he said.

Early potato production, such as planting and cultivation, was done with the horse, harvesting using a hand fork until 1950.

"After that, the industry mechanised and cultivation of potatoes was done with tillage equipment, using rotary hoes for preparation and mechanical planters for sowing, and mechanical harvesting," Mr Rose said.

A board member of the Potato Marketing Authority in 1990, Mr Rose is a staunch supporter of controlled marketing for the industry.

"Stability in the marketplace, and controlling production levels is critical to ensuring there isn't an oversupply," he said. "Fundamentally, it's not rocket science."

To support his strong stance on statutory marketing, Mr Rose said during the Federal Government's push to implement National Competition Policy guidelines the Potato Marketing Authority constantly proved its value to the public interest.

With the future of the Potato Marketing Corporation on shaky ground, Mr Rose believes producers will be worse off without the organisation.

"We had a general formula for production to have no more than 5 per cent surplus production in any season and that system still works," he said.

A humble man, Mr Rose has seen the world many times over, both in the air force in coastal command during the end of World War II, and then again as a Nuffield Scholar in 1966.

Mr Rose's Nuffield Scholarship took him firstly to England and then the Netherlands, but in later years, through the Nuffield organisation, to farms across the world.

"The Nuffield adventure was a memorable chapter in my life and it changed my outlook on farming," he said. "It seemed to be easier to make business decisions after I returned from my scholarship with an awareness of our agricultural pursuits being commodities in world marketing."

"I used to think that challenges ahead were an upstairs climb, but looking back on it all, there was a lot of satisfaction from my career.

"The fact that my brothers and I could all dart off on a tangent of our free will and not have any jealousy, made the business work.

"I have had a successful and fortunate life."

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