He’ll soon have a John Deere round baler stirring up kangaroos and cockatoos as it runs the rows of his Queensland farm. It seems odd, but kangaroos can be a serious crop pest. “They are not a real problem in cotton, but they sure are in wheat. If you’ve got an irrigated crop and everything else is dry, they all come to the crop and eat it. There are people who are professional kangaroo shooters — that’s what they do for a living. But some farmers, because there are so many of them, have to just go and shoot them.”

On Ian Hayllor’s farm, the wildlife is different and the geography is flipped, but his feel for the land is no different from any American farmer. “I love seeing things grow. There is nothing more rewarding — on the cropping side — than having a really good crop. Everybody is happy when you’re harvesting a good crop. You can work with family; it’s a family concern. The kids grow up, and they were farming as soon as they could walk. They used to love helping to irrigate — playing in the mud and water. It’s that family atmosphere.”

Australia’s 2012 cotton harvest will begin in April; Ian and his Mississippi Delta picker will be waiting. “We’ve been looking forward to ending this last cotton crop — it was difficult and disappointing. But we’re starting the new one already. It’s the next challenge and there’s something new around the corner,” says Ian.

“You drive around and see a good crop, then you can’t stop smiling.” In that regard, maybe 9,000 miles isn’t that far after all.