Five generations of change for Port Curtis farmers
Geoff Walters has come out of semi-retirement to help his son on the family farm near the Woolwash on Port Curtis Road.
“I like my fishing but the boat pretty well lives under the house these days,” he said.
“I think I’m working harder now than I used to.”
Mr Walters was the fourth generation to farm at historic Port Curtis, just south of Rockhampton’s CBD.
At 66 years old, he can “almost just sort of” remember when sheep were grazed in the area and scoured in the lagoon there.
Outside his front gates is the brick shelter where people travelling on the rail motor would stop and stretch their legs at ‘the Tropic of Capricorn’.
(The actual tropic crossing was further up the road, just beyond where a concrete causeway lies today.)
His great-grandfather cleared their block to begin dairying which lasted up until the late 60s.
“Once they introduced bulk milk, he couldn’t provide the all weather access because it floods out here,” Mr Walters said.
“It was an end of an era so we moved onto something else.”
The family has run cattle on the property “since about 1968” and they also grow fodder and hay.
With the winter oats harvested, and the summer forage coming up in the next paddock over, Mr Walters has just finished baling some lucerne for sale.
“My grandfather always said to keep your shed full of hay and sell off once you’ve looked after your own needs,” he said.
“Some people are complaining about the prices of hay, that we’re capitalising on the dry conditions.
“Truth is, you’ve got to water two or three times a day to grow good hay, and the labour costs are incredible.”
He doesn’t consider the current drought to be anything out of the ordinary.
“My grandfather always said the next drought is just around the corner,” he said.
“Life on the land is tough and what makes it tougher is the big corporations coming in.”
Mr Walters raised three sons in the area, one of whom, a builder, has taken over the farm.
Another who lives locally is an electrician and his other son is a software engineer in Brisbane.
“So long as they’re happy, that’s what we worked for.”