Dowerin Deere to their hearts

Haidee VandenbergheCountryman

At 30-feet it was the biggest header front ever displayed in WA, holding pride of place at the 1991 Dowerin field days.

Aged just 22 and 28, the Kalajzic brothers, Eddie and Greg from Cadoux, were snapped by the Countryman with machinery dealer Dick Selwood checking out the John Deere 9600.

A lot has changed in the past two decades.

Stonewash jeans are out, 30-foot header fronts are no longer groundbreaking and the Kalajzic brothers have etched out different career paths.

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In 1991, Ed thought he would still be farming in 20 years’ time, but these days he’s the business development manager at CBH.

Ten years ago, Ed and his wife Tonya decided to move towards a life in Perth and Ed began the unenviable task of studying accounting and finance while still working fulltime on the farm.

Harvest and seeding times were punctuated with not only hours on the tractor, but study and exams.

“I thought I’d be farming for the rest of my life, I certainly didn’t have any ambitions back then to leave — I loved farming, ” Ed said.

“But getting married and having kids changed my perspective, ” Ed said.

“I remember when we were harvesting, I’d knock off and go to Wongan Hills, where I could go to an exam centre and do an exam.”

The former Cadoux farm boy finished his degree, became a charted accountant and moved into the corporate world, before the chance to return to his rural roots, at CBH, came up.

“The most amazing thing is you just don’t know where life is going to take you, ” he said.

“It used amaze me when I was sitting up in a boardroom on the 19th floor in QV1 in Perth dealing with other company’s strategies, and yet five years ago I was sitting on a tractor driving around and around.”

Ed’s not surprised he was photographed checking out the John Deeres back at the 1991 Dowerin field days, admitting he always had a thing for green machines.

“Dowerin was the event of the year — all that socialising and all the machinery in one spot, which you tend to like as a grower, ” he reminisced.

“Then there were the sundowners — or in Cadoux’s case there always used to be a few drinks back at the shop — it was a very social time of the year.”

Always keen to keep an eye on emerging technology, Greg remembers the Countryman photo being taken.

He moved to Perth just a month after the photo was taken, followed by wife Robyn at the end of the school year.

After various jobs, including working for Elders and running a sport store, Greg these days owns a corporate uniform business.

He said he’d never regretted his decision to leave the farm, but still had a keen interest in agriculture.

“I still catch up with all the guys, whether it’s Country Week footy, I still go and have a look, or go up to a couple of golf days (at Cadoux) — you never take the country out of yourself, ” he said.

Greg stills heads up to the Cadoux farm at harvest and said he was fascinated by the increasing technological complexity of farming.

The third and oldest brother Mike missed out on being in the photo — he thinks he was wandering somewhere else around the Dowerin field days with his young wife Rhonda and their three small children.

Today it’s not his children Shaun, Lisa and Pippa in tow but grandchildren.

Mike and Rhonda are still on the farm and Mike said the last 20 years in agriculture had been a wild and wonderful ride.

Back in 1991, with all three brothers still on the farm, the Cadoux property was a grain and sheep enterprise carrying about 5000 ewes.

Seeding didn’t occur until there was a break, although lupins went in dry, and cultivation was the norm.

These days the size of the operation has doubled, become all cropping and Mike runs a no-till system.

The family didn’t buy the John Deere 9600 they were looking at in 1991, but these days run two John Deere headers with 36- foot fronts.

“We’ve got a lot bigger, partly out of necessity and partly out of opportunity, ” Mike said.

“But in the last 10 years of our expansion, our last really good year pricewise and crop-wise was 2003.

“We’ve had a couple of reasonable seasons since then but marketing has been terrible. The last decade has made things very difficult.

“Our thinking was to go all cropping, because I like cropping and the idea in having expanded was to be able to rest paddocks for a green manure type system.”

Mike believes the biggest changes to agriculture in the past 20 years have been the advent of no-till and the technology that has come along with it and the deregulation of the wheat market.

“The comment my father (John) made to me last year was if we didn’t have no-till we wouldn’t have been getting a crop in the last years because of the seasons, ” he said.

“We’ve certainly stopped a lot of wind erosion — no-till has actually made that better as well.

“Technology has made so much difference; it’s made farming to some degree easier, a lot more accurate.”

With it shaping up to be one of the best seasons in recent times, Mike’s set to head off to Dowerin this year and says he’ll probably browse the header fronts, just like his brothers were doing all those years ago.

Ed is hoping to make it and as a regular attendee Greg is pretty sure he’ll make the drive to Dowerin.

It might be 20 years on, but the lure of big machinery and the odd catch up over a beer or two still lingers.

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