Stellar sunflowers dazzle farmer and visitors
BY NORM Kerle's calculations, his latest crop should make him a millionaire.
The Mount Walker farmer was on the cusp of harvesting 9.7 hectares of the "best sunflower crop” he had grown, after a break of more than 25 years from growing the flower, and the achievement had him beaming with delight.
He said the flowers were destined to become sunflower seed oil but joked about instead selling them to the florists, where he had spotted sunflowers sold for $20 apiece.
"So I reckon 24 acres worth should set me up pretty well,” he laughed.
All jokes aside, Mr Kerle said the promise of profit did not account for much of his present happiness.
"I've had a lot of people come along and take photos and say 'Gee, you've got a good crop of sunflowers there', and I think that does a lot for your health,” he said.
"And OK, if you put the effort in and get a good yield on top, that does something for your health too.
"It makes you feel good inside... and it's a lot easier entertaining visitors than working.”
Luck and love are the two big factors Mr Kerle credits for the unusually good crop - the recent rains have helped - but he admitted to another "secret” for his success: a light dusting of volcanic ash and a good helping of crushed rock.
He discovered the benefits of volcanic ash while travelling in America and seeing how well farming areas surrounding Mount St Helen in Washington had flourished after its eruption in 1980.
The rocks he used as a kind of fertiliser, since micro-organisms worked to break down the rock and activate the soil.
The lifelong farmer said he was guided by his Christianity and he had come to appreciate the subtle ways in which to work with nature to achieve the best results.
"We were put on this Earth to look after this ground so that it is in as good or better shape when we leave it,” he said.
"Really, it is that simple, but you've got to understand the whole thing and work with nature. Don't go trying to work against it because you won't win.”
Now with a flourishing, flowering field, Mr Kerle was happy basking in the attention of it all.
He had even painted a windmill as a giant sunflower to draw more eyes.
"It's no great exercise to paint it up, but it's a talking point I guess,” he said.
Occasionally, Mr Kerle's visitors aren't as friendly as he is; he talked of spotting a couple stealing flowers from the roadside.
"But I mean really, if a few flowers makes their day, what do I care to stop them?” he said.
"It doesn't take a lot in life to give people a bit of a chuckle.”