Tom Mifsud crouches in a mungbean crop. Tom said the beans would be ready to harvest in about seven days time.
Tom Mifsud crouches in a mungbean crop. Tom said the beans would be ready to harvest in about seven days time. Emma Boughen

Keeping eyes on the sky

COMING off the back of one of the driest Aprils in memory Clermont cattle and grain farmer Tom Mifsud is living by one motto - "all in good time".

Just north of Clermont, Tom, his wife Clare and their two young boys run West Wolfang.

This time of year the property is a sight, with more than 1000ha of sunflowers blooming.

Tom calls his farming company, Sky View, a name his wife Clare devised, drawing inspiration from their stunning view.

And while the Mifsud's relish in their view of the mountain peaks, and unending horizon, in the coming weeks the family will be looking skyward for a different reason.

They're on the look out for rain.

The Mifsud's received just 200ml of rain at the end of January, but received nothing in the lead up to planting their sunflower crop at the end of February.

And have received just 15ml of rain since.

"It's been a good three or four years since we've had decent rain," Tom said.

"Usually we would have expected 24 inches by this time. We're just growing crops in storm rain, which is frightening.

"That's why the crops are so patchy."

Looking forward to winter Tom said his chick pea crop would have to be planted deep to compensate for the lack of moisture.

"Not only have we not had much rain, but it's been unseasonably hot and very windy, the crops just can't catch a break," he said.

"We're just like everyone, hoping that we'll get some more rain, but all in good time.

"We are very fortunate to have received what we have."

Despite the lack of rain, Tom said the sunflowers were doing "exceptionally well".

"We haven't planted sunflowers in a long time, my brother Peter is usually the sunflower guru," Tom laughed.

"But we badly needed a rotation, I had some new country open up so we went with sunflowers and corn."

In the ground at the moment Tom has 2400ha of sorghum, 400ha of mungbeans, and another 500ha of corn.

As a boy Tom's family arrived in Clermont in 1979, chasing a dream of a cattle and grain farming.

Twenty-five years ago they branched out and purchased West Wolfang with about 9000ha of dryland farming.

Now he and his two brothers run each of their properties all along the same road.

The Sky View team, including six permanent staff, are in the middle of harvesting mungbeans, describing them as the little crop that could.

Encouraged by trials this week the mungbeans have given roughly half a tonne to the acre.

Keeping his eyes firmly fixed on the sky, or the crops infront of him, Tom doesn't pay much mind to price fluxuations.

"I try not to look at prices too much, because when it gets low, you get disheartened.

"And you can't dwell on it or you'll end up sitting in a corner, not getting anything done," he said.

"All I know is prices probably won't be what I want," he joked.

Family time

SUNDAYS are sacred in the Mifsud home thanks to a lecture delivered by long-time friend and employee Fred.

"He said to me that while I think working seven days a week is okay now, as my boys grow up, I'll realise what I'd missed," Tom said.

"When my boys got into cricket I'd take them to games on the weekend, and watching their smiles when they saw us cheering them on, from the sideline made me think 'geez Fred's onto something here'."

Tom said he was falling into the trap that many landholders experience, given their work is their home.

"I've really changed my attitude. I make sure to take Sundays off and spend it with the boys," he said.

And above all else, he makes sure to set aside time to watch Landline.


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