57 year era ends

26 Mar, 2003 10:00 PM
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THE words commitment and persistence aptly describe the life and attitude of recently-retired Katanning farmer Donald Stronach.

When he started farming a particular piece of land in the district, people warned him that he would never be able to do it - before him 19 farmers had tried to make that land productive but to no avail.

He persisted and as a result has successfully farmed the land to its greatest potential, said his granddaughter Shella Stronach.

''Now 57 years later, Donald has achieved a lot more than just proving these people wrong," she said.

"Thousands of livestock have thrived on his land and it's hard to believe that more than half a century ago - precisely 57 years - Donald began his farming with only a few milking cows and 57 sheep."

Donald was born in Katanning on June 3, 1924 and attended the local state school but was forced to leave at the young age of just over 13 years to support his family.

When aged 17, Donald fought in World War II, serving at the front line. After four-and-a-half years in the war he returned home and married. He and his wife Margaret had two sons, Michael Robert and Raymond Bruce Stronach.

Donald had a butcher's shop in Katanning for several years before deciding to buy 200ha (496ac) of land at $3.20/acre.

The following year he bought another 1619ha (4000ac), the land everyone said noone could farm, where he successfully bred pigs, cattle, sheep and horses (horse-racing being a passion of his).

Throughout Donald's farming years he has braved the worst, ranging from frosts and floods to a rabbit plague that cost him a third of his crop and pasture one year.

He has witnessed major advancements in agriculture, but states that he has "seen farming degenerate as the government interferes too much and farming is no longer viable."

Donald was also a pioneer in the use of selenium in livestock, a mineral supplement used to prevent white muscle disease.

Donald turns 79 this year and when asked what his biggest accomplishment in 57 years of farming has been, said:

"Succeeding at what I started off doing, farming."

His future plans are to visit the graveside of his brother who was killed in action at Alamein in Egypt, then go wherever the road takes him.

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