What is in this article?:
- Nine thousand miles is a long haul to buy a cotton picker. Tack on another 9,000 miles to get home and you have the makings of an epic journey or a geographical accident. Throw in a couple of Australians kicking up Delta dirt in Mississippi, and the story takes on a surreal quality — a cotton odyssey.
- They don’t trust mineral companies, have no patience with the environmental ‘greens’, and believe the government is a broken machine.
- Over the last 20 years, their cotton bales-per-acre average has been in the 3.5-3.75 range.
Ian Hayllor, Dalby, Queensland, and son Jimmy, right, traveled a total of 18,000 miles to buy a cotton picker in Tunica, Miss., and transport it back to Australia.
Nine thousand miles is a long haul to buy a cotton picker. Tack on another 9,000 miles to get home and you have the makings of an epic journey or a geographical accident. Throw in a couple of Australians kicking up Delta dirt in Mississippi, and the story takes on a surreal quality — a cotton odyssey.
But behind the odd circumstances are two Australian farmers with a granite grasp of farming and a blunt recognition of the problems facing agriculture. Despite breaking ground on the other side of the globe, they share a worldview strikingly similar to American farmers.
It was rain that put producer Ian Hayllor, Dalby, Queensland, and his son Jimmy on the road to the United States in search of a cotton picker. Starting in December of 2010, Queensland (Australia’s second largest state and more than twice the size of Texas) was hit with its worst floods in 130 years. The scope of damage was massive, with three-quarters of the state declared a disaster zone. “We got more rain in the last two years than we’d got in the previous 10. We thought we had a flood-free farm. It was a shock. We said, ‘It’s not coming in the house; it’s not.’ But it started coming in, almost through the floorboards — a foot deep. When the water went down, we washed the silt out of the house. The flood then came back. We cleaned up again and got on with it,” remembers Ian.
With the Hayllor’s farmland under water and prospects grim for crop production, their focus was on surviving the season. The Australian growing season is generally the polar opposite from its American counterpart. Despite the floods hitting in December and January, fields were still full of maturing crops.
“You could drive a boat across the farm from one end to the other,” says Jimmy.
The flood’s time frame coincided with Australia’s John Deere purchase window on new pickers. With his farm swamped and facing far greater concerns than a new picker, Ian let the Deere deadline roll by, despite having wanted to buy a round baler. When the water receded, irrigation ditches needed rebuilding; fields were full of silt; and furrows had to be put in. Without hesitation, Ian describes it as “the busiest time of our lives.”
After he got the operation back in order, his farm was blessed with a good run of weather and Ian found himself preparing for harvest with fair expectations of a limited crop. He knew his yields would be poor: “Some of the crops just looked dead, but they came back. We actually only lost 300 total acres to dead crops. But the season was so wet that all our acreage, dryland or not, just didn’t yield well.”