Farmer in Focus – Coleman Schache

This month BCG caught up with Hopetoun Farmer and local Football Coach, Coleman Schache. After a day in the paddock picking up some pretty sizable rocks unearthed deep ripping in the summer, Coleman managed to find some time in his busy schedule to have a chat about his farm, his community and his plans for the future.

First things first mate, put this to bed – how do you pronounce your last name?
Well, it’s German, and you pronounce it like it sounds with a hard e. So it’s shack and then pronounce the e – Shack-ee.

I’m glad we cleared that up -Can you give us a bit of background on yourself and your farm?
Well, this is the family farm and I’m the 4th generation Schache. We’re north-west of Hopetoun bordering on the Wyperfeld National Park. We’ve got about 2500 hectares which we mainly crop, but we have a few ewes that we run on the marginal country.
It’s a good family operation, I’m here with my old man, Anthony and my Mum, Vicki. My younger sister, Dana, is a teacher, but she’s keen on being a part of the farm and her holidays align with the harvest, so she comes back to help during the summer. I’ve got an older sister, Brylee, who is an interior designer in Melbourne. I don’t think she can remember how to get to the farm now to be honest.

You better just confirm that’s a joke Col.
Good call, just a joke – love you Brylee.

So, when did you start out here, I know you went to school in Ballarat, did you come straight home?
Yeah, I went down to school at Ballarat and Clarendon College. I actually did my building apprenticeship in Ballarat after leaving school and then I came back to the farm about 4 years ago.

What was the driver behind that decision?
Well, Dad was thinking about scaling back and I had a think about it and decided to give it a crack. I was excited by the opportunity and couldn’t pass it up – I’ve always loved living up here, growing up on the farm and helping when I was younger, and it’s good to know that the farm will be in the family for another generation. The work is challenging too, once you get into it. You quickly realise that there is a lot more to farming than sitting on a tractor, and I’m really enjoying that aspect.

Tell me about it – what are the key things you’re looking at?
It’s all sorts of stuff really, the agronomic side of things is something I’m learning more and more about, good rotations, soil amelioration things that you wouldn’t think about before you’re doing it. Before you’re trying to make a living out of it. Mum does a lot of work on the financial side of the business, and I’m trying to get across that as well.

What has been happening on the farm recently?
Well, the sowing program for 2020 is done now. We’ve rolled all the pulses, and we’re starting to spread fertiliser. Work never really stops, but it’s good to get the crop in for another year – it feels like a milestone.

How did the sowing program go, have you ever sown into a moisture profile like this?
Yeah, it’s been a good start hasn’t it? I don’t think there was any dust coming up which I’ve not seen before. Dad thinks it’s magic seeing the Mallee this green, this early. 

What are the challenges you’re seeing now, there’s always something you’ve got to keep your mind on?
That’s right, there is always a challenge no matter how good the start. The green bridge over summer has meant that there are few insects getting around – we’ll have to keep an eye on the crops.

What are your plans for the farm in 2020 and for the future, you’ve just gotten engaged?
Yep, just got engaged to my now fiancée, Jess. We haven’t set any dates yet, there’s going to a bit of a backlog with weddings after this COVID crisis so it might be a fair wait before the wedding. Other than that, we are just moving onto the next step in the farming calendar the same as everyone else.

Speaking of the backlog due to COVID, how was has the Hopetoun Community handled the changes?
Well, we’re probably lucky that during the worst of it the farming community was flat out trying to get the crop in and that kept our minds off it.
Now the sowing program is over for most growers and it’s coincided with an easing of restrictions so we’re lucky. The community here is great, everyone looks out for each other and they’re staying positive.

And, as coach of the mighty Mallee Giants – do you think there will be a season?
I’m staying positive. We’re back into training this week, and even if there isn’t a competitive season it will be good to get together and have a kick somehow. It brings the small towns together, and we need that to keep happening.

A couple of  important questions to finish Coleman,  the big one -where do you go for advice?
First point of call is the old man – he’s the bearer of the accumulated knowledge of three generations on this property so he knows a lot about the country we’re on. Then there is the blokes on the other side of the fence, good farming neighbours who always have strong information, agronomists and of course, BCG.

And lastly, what is the best advice you’ve been given as a farmer or in life?
Never assume – that’s the best thing I’ve been told. Never assume.

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