Chatfield's reaches 40 as demand soars

Chatfield's reaches 40 as demand soars

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 Chatfield's Tree Nursery owners Dustin and Lisa McCreery next to the seed planting machine with their team of workers behind making cuttings of the Anameka fodder shrub.

Chatfield's Tree Nursery owners Dustin and Lisa McCreery next to the seed planting machine with their team of workers behind making cuttings of the Anameka fodder shrub.

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Chatfield's Tree Nursery at Tammin is celebrating its 40th year in operation.

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CHATFIELD'S Tree Nursery at Tammin is celebrating its 40th year in operation.

Back in 1979 when Dennis and Jos Chatfield started the business, it was one of about 30 tree nurseries supplying the Wheatbelt area.

In 2019, it is the only Wheatbelt Australian Accredited Nursery and one of about eight remaining Wheatbelt nurseries.

Kellerberrin Shire president and local farmer Rod Forsyth said Dennis Chatfield "should have received an award for his work inventing the Chatfield tree planter" because it changed the industry.

"Since about 1980 we have planted about 500,000 trees on our property, with a 95 per cent strike rate," Mr Forsyth said.

Second-generation owners Dustin and Lisa McCreery said the business has been servicing farmers throughout the Wheatbelt with a range of plant species, with an estimated 50 million trees having been supplied to customers for more than 40 years.

In recent years things have only become busier as a new generation of farmers have reinvigorated the importance of land management on their farms.

Ms McCreery, as the daughter of Dennis and Jos Chatfield, grew up in the business and has a strong connection to the work and vision that her parents started.

"It's not a chore going to work," Ms McCreery said.

"We love what we do and we can see the impact on the environment and the satisfaction of our clients who have been able to run sheep on land that was otherwise sitting there and getting worse.

"It is very rewarding helping people change the landscape and assisting farmers to achieve their goals."

Dustin and Lisa returned to the nursery in 2001 and took over the business in 2008.

Since then they have supplied customers with roughly two million seedlings and up to 280 different species per year, including the Anameka fodder shrub.

Mr McCreery said this season they had put measures in place to meet the increasing demand each year.

They have become so busy with the Anameka fodder shrub in particular, that they have contracted two other Wheatbelt tree nurseries to ensure they have enough to cover the 2020 season orders.

Since commercial production of Anameka they have averaged 300,000 seedlings sold and delivered across Australia as farmers seek to increase feed for stock in marginal areas.

Chatfield's Tree Nursery owners Dustin and Lisa McCreery in the hot house with 115,000 Anameka fodder shrubs seedlings. The seedlings remain in the hot house for four to five weeks, in a controlled environment to allow them to strike, they are then transferred into an outside nursery area where they continue to grow and are graded ready for delivery in June 2020.

Chatfield's Tree Nursery owners Dustin and Lisa McCreery in the hot house with 115,000 Anameka fodder shrubs seedlings. The seedlings remain in the hot house for four to five weeks, in a controlled environment to allow them to strike, they are then transferred into an outside nursery area where they continue to grow and are graded ready for delivery in June 2020.

They also deliver more than 500,000 other species of saltbush mainly Oldman and Rivermore to reclaim saline affected land.

Their other seedlings are used for biodiversity, roadside and farm rehabilitation planting.

They said, while a growing number of farmers had yearly orders locked in they were still taking new orders for 2020.

"Now is the time to put orders in, if we can get the seed, we can grow and deliver it," Mr McCreery said.

They offer 75 different species of seedlings on their order form but can supply hundreds of others, depending on customer requirements.

Mr McCreery said it was not uncommon for him to do a 1200 kilometre round trip to deliver plants and visit clients across WA - offering advice on the best way to get the most out of the plants.

Ms McCreery said they have about 100 regular farming customers across WA who have built into their farm management programs an annual tree planting regime, which was exciting for the industry, as well as agriculture, because it highlighted how concerned farmers were about improving their land and being proactive in solving their salinity and erosion issues.

They also supply mines sites and shires undertaking regenerative work.

"Salinity is still one of the biggest problems in the Wheatbelt," Mr McCreery said.

"There are also issues with erosion but salinity is still claiming a lot of farmland."

He said he thought more attention needed to be placed by government assisting farmers with on ground work to preserve the environment and improve the sustainability of the land.

Chatfield's are "well known for growing 'good' trees", but each season they are reliant on the quality of seed.

"Seeds are the most critical part of the business," he said.

"There's not enough being collected for the rehabilitation work that needs to be done in the State."

At the nursery they have special germination cabinets that can be set to mimic the conditions in various parts of the State, with adjustable temperature and humidity levels, to achieve that result.

"Plants grow at different rates so we have to trick them into germinating," Mr McCreery said.

While they have a high success rate of germination in the nursery, they were continually experimenting to improve that as much as possible.

Ms McCreery said the business employed 12 staff from the local area, including from Quairading, Kellerberrin and Cunderdin.

"Successful local businesses were important to small towns and Chatfield's was one of a number in the area contributing to the long term sustainability of the community," Lisa said

Chatfield's try to foster a healthy working environment and had been rewarded with loyal and dependable staff.

Ms McCreery said they provided "a flexible working environment" and also provided opportunities for local high school students during the school holidays.

"We get them to apply over the phone - they have to ring me, not just text, and have a proper interview," Lisa said.

"Once they have the job it helps them learn the value of money and also the expectations of the workplace, if they want to work the next holidays, they have to ring me again.

"These are vital skills for life."

With business booming, the future of the nursery looked bright - especially when considering the continual demand from farmers, shires and mine sites and the changing climatic conditions being experienced across the country.

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