Turner Brothers - Smiths Bay

Kangaroo Island Courier (Kingscote, SA : 1907 - 1951), Saturday 5 November 1910, page 4

Kangaroo Island Farms.



Although fourteenth on the list of the present series of articles Messrs Turner Bros' farm, Smith's Bay, is one of the finest properties on Kangaroo Island, and it is from the said farm that barley has been sent to the Mother Country to compete against the world's exhibits, carrying away the first prize from all-comers. The farm is under the active supervision of Cr. John Turner who has had attached with him for many years as partner his brother, Mr Alfred Turner.

Messrs John, Alfred and George Turner arrived on Kangaroo Island in 1882. They came across from Cape Jervis where they had been engaged in farming and contracting. Mr John Turner had taken a "preliminary" canter over the Island and, having visited the Smith's Bay country, took a fancy to it. The Hundred of Menzies was only partly surveyed at that time. The first selection taken up by the brothers was that property now held by Mr George Turner. This was acquired in January '82. In June of the same year 1000 acres was taken up where Messrs Turner Bros now reside, and 4000 odd acres taken up some years later, all the property being now freehold. At that time the land was heavily timbered — so densely that, when the brothers first built their home they could not see the blue sea of which, at the present time, a fine view can be obtained from the homestead. In those days Turner Bros, were vigorous and full of enthusiasm and, as Mr John Turner himself states 'not easily daunted.' They started clearing operations and building their future home right away. Mr John Turner erected their home in the scrub with his own hands, and the structure still stands and forms portion at the present homestead.

At that time it was compulsory on the part of the selector to cultivate one-fifth of his holding, which was a big drawback, for the reason that the land could not be cultivated with the necessary thoroughness. For the first five or six years the brothers steadily proceeded with, clearing and fencing operations. During the first two seasons they secured very good crops of wheat and barley, without manure. The second year the wheat crop looked good enough for 60 or 70 bushels, some of it attaining a height of over 6ft. Then the yields began to ' go off.' After four years' experience of decreasing harvests a Council of War was held and, as Mr Turner expressed it, 'We altered our hand and went in for fallowing, and put a few sheep on the place.' At that time they also kept pigs which were found to be very profitable. After the fallowing they, the following season, tried a few tons of bone super and bonedust with the result that 25 bushels of barley per acre was secured from the manured land as against 5 bushels taken from the unmanured portion. Land that had previously been cultivated two or three times, with no return, was fallowed, ploughed up twice in the one season (early in the Spring and late in the Spring) and then, when tilling time came round for the next season, it was ploughed again and sowed with barley and 2 cwt. of bone super per acre. The results at harvest time showed an average of 64 bushels per acre. Some of it went 80 bushels. 'That,' said Mr Turner, 'was an eye-opener, and we now saw what we had to do.'

It is pioneering work like this that calls for pluck and perseverance. The scrub was a particularly difficult factor to reckon with. It was not a matter of chopping it down once, nor a second, or yet a third time, that did away with this stubborn foe which, however, had eventually to succumb to the attacks of more stubborn men. Finding that they could not get rid of the scrub in any other manner they left pieces out every year so that they could get grass over it; then, in the summer, they fired the grass, finding this the best and cheapest way of killing the scrub out. Two fires in succession ' polished the lot.' After killing the scrub they initiated a set programme of grubbing portions of the land every year until eventually they had a cleared paddock to go into, ' Anyone going on to new scrub land,' said Mr Turner, '' would have to do the same as it will be found the quickest and the cheapest means of eradicating the scrub. The man on new country does not need to be too avaricious as regards a little feed. Allowing the grass to grow and then firing it will pay him far better than feeding it down and letting the scrub go. It is a great mistake to over stock. A few sheep or cattle well kept, will pay a man better than a large number half - starved for the reason that, with a smaller number, you've always got meat and wool , with a large number you've got neither.'

After being on the farm eight or nine years Mr Turner, being a firm believer in mixed farming, got down 100 merino ewes in lamb from Adelaide. They were landed at Smith's Bay from a boat, being allowed to swim ashore. 90 per cent of lambs was secured from the flock. After running the merinos two or three years they went in for a Lincoln cross, with a Lincoln ram, and the strain has been kept up ever since. This cross, Mr Turner says, is much hardier than the merino, is better framed, and carries a bigger weight in wool— the extra quantity more than making up the difference in quality. Turner Bros. have never regretted introducing sheep on their property. In fact the sheep, in a manner of speaking, made the farm. There are about a thousand now running on the property, including the lambs, which are coming in every year. Turner Bros, always get a satisfactory price for their wool. Last year they secured 11d per lb. for merino, and 10¼d for crossbred, 7¼d for Lincoln, 7d for lambs, and 5d for pieces, and one of the lambs, at 4 months, turned the scale at 94lbs. This year Turner Bros, are sending away a trial shipment of fat lambs, and, we should say, from what we saw of them, that they will 'hold their own.'

After the Government did away with the condition making it compulsory for the selector to cultivate one fifth of his holding Turner Bros, put in a smaller area of country, and secured more grain, by careful cultivation, than they had taken from a larger tract, 80 bushels of Chevalier barley (the old Spring variety) per acre being the highest achievement. The year before last a field of Algerian oats, out for hay, gave a return of 4½ tons per acre. This year's harvest, owing to the excessive rain, will not be as good as those of previous years. The average rainfall at Smith's Bay is 20 inches — but up to date, for this year, 31½ inches of rain has fallen.

The average yield of barley per year has been, from 35 to 40 bushels per acre for a number of years, in fact since Turner Bros, commenced using artificial fertilizers. For a manure Mr John Turner favors bone super, bonedust and sulphate of ammonia ; the latter, mixed in the proportion of about 1 to 4 of the bone super has given the best results on various classes of country, such as heavy clay, limestone marl, etc. For the ironstone country Mr Turner does not believe in a manure being too soluble. Turner Bros, pay close attention to such by-products as wattle bark, eggs, pigs, vegetables, (such as onions, shallots and garlic always finding a ready market). To be successful with these last it has been their experience that the land must be well worked and kept clear of weeds. Potatoes do not do quite as well as other vegetables at Smith's Bay, owing to the bleak Nor' -West winds. Mr Turner tried some potatoes on the the sandy ironstone country, and secured an average of between 11 and 12 bushels the first year. He tried it the second year with Algerian oats and wheat. The oats turned out well but the wheat was not quite up to the mark — averaging from 9 to 10 bushels. [Mr Turner's views concerning the ironstone country (which are favorable) appeared in our last issue.]

Mr Turner states that, for several years after he started using fertilizers (so closely do old-fashioned prejudices cling to people) his neighbors laughed at him. He was the first man to introduce a binder to K.I., and also the first to use a drill.

A stroll about Turner Bros' farm at this time of the year is most interesting and instructive. As a homestead meeting of members of the Kingscote branch of the Agricultural Bureau (of which body Mr J. Turner is chairman) is to be held on Tuesday next, it would perhaps detract from the pleasure of the meeting if the intending visitors receive a description now of what they are to see, therefore, in this issue, we will only speak in a general sense. There is a magnificent crop of barley which will, in spite of the handicap of an abnormally wet season, well repay inspection. Sheep in their wool are, no doubt, more pleasing to look upon than the shorn animals but, even with their wool off, it will be seen how fat and comfortable they appear to be, grazing on the green uplands of Turner Bros. farm. Some of the Lincoln rams, with the wool off, turn the scale at 200 lbs.

Now for a few words about the man who is at the head of this fine property. Fifty years from now John Turner's name will be remembered and honored as the man whose barley secured world-wide fame for the Island, and who takes a pride in carrying out thoroughly the part he has to play in the great industry of agriculture. One of Kangaroo Island's strong men Cr Turner is true as steel to his friends and, having mapped out his course and formed his own opinion, pursues the even tenour of his way regardless of all adverse criticism.

Kangaroo Island Farms. (1910, November 5). The Kangaroo Island Courier (Kingscote, SA : 1907 - 1951), p. 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article191638886