BCG recently caught up with Wycheproof farmer Josh Pellegrino:
Can you give us a bit of background on yourself and your farm?
I grew up on the family farm just north of Wycheproof. Mum and Dad, Donna and Dom, live on the farm and myself, my partner Averyll and our two kids live in town. We roughly crop 1500-2000ha of cereals, legumes and pulses and also run around 1000 sheep, merinos and crossbreds, as well as black angus cattle. I’m an auto electrician by trade and this has been a very beneficial skill to have on the farm. I completed my apprenticeship after leaving school with G & B Butcher Auto Electrical in Swan Hill. This took four years and I stayed another four as a qualified auto electrician. The plan was always to come back to the farm – while I really enjoy the auto elec trade (I’ve been twitching wires since I was a kid) my long-term goal was always to be a farmer. When I moved back to Wycheproof in 2010 I started my own business, Premier Auto Electrics, out of the workshop on the farm as a side-hustle. I didn’t expect to get so busy so quickly and it’s only getting busier as the years go on! I used to cover quite a large area but as the farming side of things has gotten busier, I’ve scaled back to covering mostly Wycheproof. Running my own business has definitely helped me become very efficient in terms of time management on the farm!
Tell me something interesting about your farm. Do you do anything differently?
We don’t do anything really different on our farm, as we adopt most modern farming practices minimum tillage, etc. I suppose it’s a little unique in that it’s just me and Dad, we don’t have any staff, skilled workers are extremely hard to find, be that auto electrical or farming. Over the years I’ve had VCAL students come one or two days a week to learn a bit about the auto-electrical side of things. These kids are mostly from local farming families. The other difference about our farm is that my workshop is based at the farm, which makes it hard to separate the two. You might be filling up a boom spray, getting ready to go spraying, and then someone turns up with an auto elec issue. Most of my customers are also farming so it obviously gets extremely busy around cropping and harvest. At the end of the day, the farm is the number one priority.
What has been happening on the farm recently?
We have been mainly spraying, finishing up in-crop spraying and fungicides on the wheat. Crops are looking great after a bit of a challenging start. We just got 30mm of rain so hopefully that will get us through to harvest, although another rain would be great! We are shearing in the next few weeks.
What have been the challenges?
Probably the most challenging aspect is wanting to expand the farm so I can do less auto-elec work and farm full-time but land and lease prices are out of control, not to mention all other input and machinery costs. Sourcing machinery parts for the farm has been a challenge but if you’re organised it’s not too much of a worry as it just takes time. Harder on the auto-elec side of things as some customers don’t understand the shortage issues.
How do you manage your roles on the farm?
I mainly just have a chat to Dad and work out the day/week plan – who’s doing what, when, where, etc. It gets a little difficult when you’re trying to manage a farm and an auto electrical workshop at the same time but we manage.
What are your plans for your farm in 2022? Will you be doing anything differently? How are they going so far?
There are no huge changes planned at this stage, just sticking to the program – a basic rotation between legumes and cereals to combat grasses, etc, and put nitrogen in the ground. We’re putting in more legumes/pulses due to rising fertiliser costs and they’re easier to control problematic weeds.
What are your long-term plans for the farm?
Expansion – we’re slowly chipping away. One day we would like to build a home on the farm somewhere. Hopefully by then the farming side of things will be our main source of income.
Who do you rely on for advice?
I look to Dad, my mates and our agronomist for advice. It’s great to have a chat about what’s happening on the farm and see how others are managing things.