Grain king to ab­di­cate af­ter life­time on the land

Albany Extra - - Extra News - Rueben Hale

The man who will be re­mem­bered for his bat­tle to keep wheat in­dus­try reg­u­la­tion has called time on his farm­ing en­ter­prise.

Lake King stal­wart Bob If­fla has an­nounced he will hang up his hat and move with wife Eileen to re­tire by the ocean in Al­bany, af­ter spend­ing a life­time on the land.

The If­flas’ re­tire­ment will see the de­par­ture of one of WA’s largest farm­ing en­ter­prise ar­chi­tects and staunch­est ad­vo­cates of agri­cul­ture in the coun­try.

The prop­er­ties the If­flas have ac­cu­mu­lated over the years now ex­tend about 70km from end to end. Mr If­fla said he knew farm­ing was go­ing to be his fu­ture from the time he was a young child mov­ing with his fa­ther from Bris­bane to his grand­fa­ther’s farm on the south side of the Porongu­rup Range.

“My grand­fa­ther had a sheep and veg­etable prop­erty, and that was where my brother, fa­ther and I lived on the farm,” Mr If­fla said.

“I loved the life straight away, and un­for­tu­nately we were fos­tered out for some time be­fore we came back to live with Dad in a War Ser­vice Land Set­tle­ment Scheme prop­erty at South Stir­ling af­ter he re­mar­ried, when I was eight years old.” Mr If­fla said he left school to help run the farm af­ter his fa­ther be­came ill. He said it was some­thing that came nat­u­rally to him.

His fa­ther’s death a year later com­pelled him to move to Newde­gate to learn the ways of largescale crop­ping and live­stock.

“I worked with some of the best farm­ers in the busi­ness for about four years be­fore work­ing out a plan to get my own farm in the area and ap­ply the prin­ci­ples I’d learnt," Mr If­fla said.

“I went shear­ing around the district and up north to save enough money to buy a trac­tor, plough and com­bine har­vester to start farm­ing on a small al­lo­ca­tion of leased land in Lake Grace.

“The first year was drought, and I more or less lost every­thing.

“How­ever, one of my pre­vi­ous em­ploy­ers guar­an­teed a loan from the bank of $2000. That al­lowed me to try again and har­vest my first suc­cess­ful crop of about 200ha the fol­low­ing year.” Mr If­fla said his am­bi­tions “be­came tur­bocharged” af­ter mar­ry­ing his life­long partner, Eileen, in 1971. He says they shared his vi­sion and to­gether were able to move moun­tains.

“The farm ex­panded as we en­tered into share farm­ing ar­range­ments with peo­ple in the district,” he said.

“The first bit of land we got was in 1980 in Lake King, where the home­stead prop­erty re­mains to this day. It was a re­growth bit of land with a lot of bush grow­ing on it. We were lucky enough to be al­lo­cated a 2000ha prop­erty in Lake Grace among a field of about 180 ap­pli­cants in 1981.

“We cleared about half the prop­erty for crop­ping the fol­low­ing year, and it took us two years to clear the en­tire block, and we cropped the whole farm in 1984.”

To­day the fam­ily busi­ness stands at just over 22,000ha of prop­erty, pro­duc­ing about 12,000ha to 14,000ha of crop and feed­ing about 30,000 sheep each year.

But suc­cess came with its chal­lenges. In the late 1980s, the If­flas came close to los­ing every­thing in an environment of high in­ter­est rates and low com­mod­ity prices.

“The worst mo­ment in those days I can remember was drop­ping my chil­dren, Michelle and Kerry, off at board­ing school,” Mr If­fla said. “The bank had sent me a let­ter ad­vis­ing the best thing they could rec­om­mend for me was to close all of my ac­counts with them. I had to tell the kids there was a pos­si­bil­ity the farm would be gone by the time they came back home.

“Our fam­ily was dev­as­tated by that prospect. What wor­ried me was that we could have lost the farm and every­thing my wife and I had worked so hard to achieve.

“I brewed for a while be­fore I even­tu­ally made an ap­point­ment with the bank man­ager and was able to sort things out.

“That made me tougher and stronger, and I am glad that we are still here.”

Mr If­fla said he learnt a valu­able les­son from that ex­pe­ri­ence.

“Some­times you may have to move side­ways, and other times you may have to go back to reach your goal, but if you know where the goals are and you want some­thing, you will usu­ally get there,” he said.

Pic­ture: Cally Dupe

Newde­gate farmer Bob If­fla with his grand­sons Malachy, 14, and Ezra, 12.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.