“You’d have to be an idiot not to be able to follow this map.”

Luckily, Albury is lovely this time of year.

I’ve left Dave, Heidi and Isaac’s and headed south-west (after a slight detour and a planned visit to a former gold-mining town now famed for its wine) to Barooga to visit another Nuffield chum, Brad.

Brad is someone I really wish I lived near just so I could go have a beer and a chat with him every week. He farms beef cattle, wheat, barley and processing tomatoes with his dad in an area that’s suffered very badly during the drought over the last decade.

To irrigate the crops he has to buy water on a quota, which is pumped down channels from the nearby Murray River, and use ground water supplies. The problem is that over the years that water has become salinated, so – like many farmers in the area – Brad and his dad have had to come up with ways to deal with the salt and ensure the plants survive the tough conditions.

Brad in his tomatoes
Brad’s dad was one of the first people to ever use an underground irrigation to water tomatoes in a system which allows the salt to whick away from the plants. Over the years they have also developed a watering and fertilising method which ensures the plants get enough inputs, but those inputs do not leach away before the plants can utilise them.

They have also started direct drilling wheat and barley on a rotation with tomatoes and cover crops in a bid to retain moisture and improve soil quality. It seems to be working – the soil looked pretty good and Brad’s wheat yields could be cracking, if it ever stops raining long enough for him to start harvesting.

While he always thinks he’s prattling on and sending me to sleep (he’s made me worried my interested expression is actually one of boredom), it’s great talking to Brad because he’s so obviously passionate about the land and the farm.

I’m not sure he realises just how switched-on he is about what he’s doing either, which makes learning from him even better. Hopefully he has room in his life to Skype-stalk two Brits so I can carry on picking his brain.

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