Rotarians in the field for Esperance

Corrina RidgwayCountryman

The tongue-in-cheek reference to a 1970s television program shows just how much the Esperance Rotary Club's Prickle Farm lease is a community effort.

"It's a little dig about how the farm is managed, a bit like a Dad and Dave show in that it's run voluntarily," said John Wallace, a long-time Rotarian and share farmer of the property.

In reality, the well-maintained property is a huge boon to the Esperance region, giving more than $500,000 to community projects in its long history.

The 728ha Esperance Noongar Aboriginal Community property is on Savage Road, about 50km north-east of Esperance.

Originally leased from the Aboriginal Lands Trust, the lease relationship between historical owners and charity organisation has been operating smoothly for more than 30 years.

"We originally leased on peppercorn rent - rent was foregone in lieu of capital improvements to the farm," Mr Wallace said.

"Originally, it solely ran shipping wethers in four 180ha paddocks."

After the original owners changed hands, the lease was changed to a commercial agreement with 10 per cent reinvested in on-farm capital before finally transferring to ENAC in 2010.

The property then went to a full commercial lease with a five-and-five option - a five-year lease with an option for five more years following that period - and no funds are reinvested.

"We do get a bit of a better rate than commercial price due to it being for community benefit," Mr Wallace said.

Each season, around 160ha of Prickle Farm are cropped, while the remainder runs 600 ewes mated to British breed sires.

This season, the crop comprised 120ha of canola, 160ha of Hindmarsh and Bass barley and 178ha of Mace wheat.

The Prickle Farm is regarded as the jewel in the crown of ENAC's properties.

"It's a magnificent example of a well looked after farm," Mr Wallace said.

It has assisted the community magnificently in return, with tens of thousands of dollars donated to worthy causes each year.

"The property has assisted the donations to Esperance Sea Search and Rescue for gear and funding for vessels, Esperance Hospital infrastructure and equipment, Esperance TAFE, the Esperance Nursing Home and the Esperance Surf Lifesavers," Mr Wallace said.

"We also make substantial donations to Clontarf Academy and other Aboriginal organisations as another way of supporting the landowners."

Donations to projects have been upwards of $40,000, showing just what a major contributor the farm is to community.

"The farm really enables us to get capital reserves in the bank so we can contribute substantial sums at once. We don't ask the community for any donations. The club and, as such, the lease, is run as a business," Mr Wallace said.

The reserves also give pulling power to secure other funding, including one-for-one terms on Lotterywest grants.

"It's invaluable in assisting the Rotary Club in securing extra funding from other avenues," Mr Wallace said.

All fertiliser, seed and spray is paid for. General labour is on a volunteer basis.

"All the members do some work on the farm, whether it be lamb marking, shearing or crutching or general maintenance," Mr Wallace said.

"It's definitely a group effort."

Town associates enjoy the chance to get involved on the farm. Younger members also find it an active learning experience.

"We always have a barbecue after and there's light-hearted banter - we also get a good fine session out of it the week after," Mr Wallace said.

This year, the Rotarians are looking forward to harvest as the region braces for a record yield.

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