For Neridup grain growers Jake and Clara Graham, farming is a family affair.
The couple run a 3600ha cropping operation, 50km east of Esperance, next door to Mr Graham’s parents’ farm.
And they have three very enthusiastic helpers in their sons, Oskar, 9, Ted, 6, and Louis, 5.
As soon as they get off the school bus down the road, the “farming-mad” boys jump on the two-way to check what paddock their dad is working in and if there has been any rain.
Their love for life on the land is something the couple are very proud of.
I love the fact that our kids live and breathe what we do.
And Mrs Graham — who hails from the other side of the world and has brought the boys up bilingual — lives and breathes it, too.
Originally from Sweden, she moved to Perth as a 15-year-old before studying to become a journalist.
Her first job after university took her to Kalgoorlie, where she became friends with Jake’s cousin — who was a fellow journalist — and on a trip to the Esperance coast she met Jake.
Mrs Graham’s work then took her back to Perth, where they began seeing each other, doing long distance between the city and country for about a year and getting to know the roads between very well.
As the saying goes, distance makes the heart grow fonder.
Mr Graham popped the question, and the rest is history.
She has since swapped the busy newsroom for the chaser bin and the city for wide open spaces. And while a huge change, she has embraced it wholeheartedly.
I love the fact you can live in almost your own little world on the farm.
“We’re only 50km from town, so we can still go and see people and be part of the Esperance town community, but I just love that I can just come back here and I’ve got my vegie garden and my chooks ... it’s not as busy as when I was a journalist in Perth.”
A third-generation farmer, Mr Graham said his late grandfather, George, had come to Esperance in the 1960s from Victoria, buying a number of properties in the region and “paving the way” for future generations of the family.
Initially living on Mr Graham’s parents’ Steve and Lee’s farm, the opportunity arose for them tobuy the neighbouring farm seven years ago. They now run their own operation, growing wheat, barley and canola as well as pulses.
In recent years, like many growers battling dry conditions across the State, the Grahams have put a lot of work into drought-proofing their property.
“In terms of water, we’ve got one main dam that we use. The rest are pretty well dry,” Mr Graham said.
“We just had enough water to get through seeding last year.
“We’ve tidied up catchments and made culverts bigger, so that you’re ready to catch if you do get the big downpour.”
Despite getting average rainfall last year — off the back of a dry 2019 — the timing was not ideal, making for a stop-start harvest.
“We got 100mm in the last three weeks of the year,” Mr Graham said.
However, having started harvest in October and wrapping up canola by November, when it started to rain, he said they had got their grain out “just in time”.
“It slowed harvest, but we still can’t work out how it didn’t affect grain quality,” Mr Graham said.
“It dragged it out for us. We probably had some head loss in some of the barley we hadn’t got to because of the wind and the rain, but yields were still above average.”
This year, they are hoping for some more — and better timed — rain, with the pair currently undertaking bookwork, paddock work, spreading gypsum and deep ripping ahead of seeding.
They have recorded 100mm so far, but missed out on this year’s bigger rainfall events — some of which saw up to 120mm dumped in some corners of the grainbelt.
While they may run their farm separately to Mr Graham’s parents, they still spend a lot of time together, planning any jobs they can do together and heading up to scenic spots including Mt Burdett — where Clara and Jake got married — for family barbecues.
Our favourite thing to do during the year if it’s a nice day is pick a nice spot on one of the farms and have a bush barbecue with Jake’s parents and the kids love that.
The fact their family is such a tight-knit unit is one of the aspects of farm life Mrs Graham loves.
“Being able to live and work with your family is something that was very foreign to me when I first moved to the farm,” she said.
“Both of my parents went off to separate jobs every morning when I was growing up and my brothers and I went off to school.
I love the fact that our kids live and breathe what we do ... you’re very much a unit on the farm and it’s very special.