The Queensland town of Theodore is located on the shores of the Dawson River, rich in wildlife and central to the agricultural endeavours of the area, but also liable to burst out of its banks and flood the surrounding plains. Back in December 2010, this town was evacuated and declared a disaster area when the level of the river exceeded 14.6 metres.
Harrod and Penny Anderson, who, with their sons Mitchell (married to Charisse) and Kirk (married to Fleur) own Andcott Pty Ltd, lost 95% of their cotton crop. The Andersons, however, were not prepared to give up just yet, and, after having to invest heavily in resetting their one thousand acres for cotton production once again, were ready to pick a new crop fifteen months later.
Meanwhile, Fleur, who was the president of the Dawson Valley Cotton Growers Association, had set out to establish the true extent of the situation, and her efforts and those of the other growers resulted in increased help from the Queensland government, plus earned her the title of 2011 Young Achiever of the Year. In addition, that year Kirk was the only finalist from Queensland in the NAB Agribusiness Primary Producer of the Year Award.
Penny acknowledges that it’s been ‘a harder road to hoe’ since the 2010 flood, but she also realises that ‘looking at the long term’ is one key to overcoming adversity of this nature. The Andersons are clearly able to make the best of the hand they are dealt, as they try, in Penny’s words, to be ‘on the ball and one step onwards’. Yet better than that, these six people are committed not only to the industry and the land, but, crucially, to each other. It is in being together that they find the strength to overcome.
This family are the proud owners of a number of John Deere tractors, sprayers and cotton pickers. The machinery has been chosen because of John Deere’s ‘long history of reliability’, which, coupled with the support they receive from the Vanderfield Biloela branch and its manager, Ben Stubbs, and the team one hour up the road, minimises time spent on machinery-related issues. A relatively recent innovation to this farm has been the purchase of John Deere equipment with JD Link capability, and Harrod says: ‘Our industry has seen snowballing costs over the past 10yrs, but JD Link and similar Information technologies are allowing us to zoom in and micro manage these costs. Our enterprise relies heavily on overseas travelling labour and with this comes ever changing experience levels, JD link allows more control of this labour, with remote hook up to trouble shoot issues from a distance and monitor machine settings to ensure optimal setup and cost efficiency.’
The Andersons’ land produced its first cotton crop back in 1977, the year before Harrod and Penny got married. There have been tough times, and indeed Harrod estimates that, almost five years after the 2010 disaster, they are still half-way through to recovery. However, having just had a couple of decent years, and provided prices hold up, cotton should continue to ‘be there for them’. And it is with great hope that we see this family, and indeed many others, continuing to be at the heart of Australian primary production, giving life to so many of our towns where people like them know how to look beyond difficult circumstances that may occur and find the strength to overcome.