Correll family values shine through

Correll family values shine through

Life & Style
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Working together as a tight-knit family has proven to be very successful for the Corrells, who run a significant cropping enterprise on the Yorke Peninsula.

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Few people would associate snail muck with success, but for the Correll family, the undesirable substance was perhaps a blessing in disguise.

Paul and David Correll are identical twin brothers who, along with Paul's son Sam and David's son Tim, run Correll Biz Farming Pty Ltd, a cropping farm on the Yorke Peninsula just a stone's throw from Sunnyvale.

Back in the 1970s, the farm was thriving, gradually expanding from the original 295-hectare block, but the snails in the pea crops were causing a headache for the men.

"Snails were a really big problem with the peas, and I got sick of cleaning them out of grain elevators at harvest time," Paul said.

"The snails don't like lentils very much at all, so we thought we'd give lentils a go instead of the peas. It's good lentil country because of the naturally alkaline soils here, which they love."

Thus began the start of a lentil cropping trailblazing period on the farm, in an area that has become one of the biggest lentil regions in Australia.

"Probably the thing we did differently with lentils is that we went aggressive on them and got into them in a big way really quickly," David said.

We stayed aggressive with them even in the drought of 2006," David said.

Machinery efficiency has been a big factor in ensuring successful lentil harvests, with the Corrells using large headers in order to harvest quickly and efficiently.

ON-FARM STORAGE: A Richiger Inloader in the paddock during last year’s harvest, loading lentils into a 340-tonne capacity silo bag. The Corrells use bags to store all of their lentils on-farm during harvest.

ON-FARM STORAGE: A Richiger Inloader in the paddock during last year’s harvest, loading lentils into a 340-tonne capacity silo bag. The Corrells use bags to store all of their lentils on-farm during harvest.

"The limiting factor for the lentils is how quickly you can get them into the header, and how quickly you can get them off the ground. We've got fronts on our headers which are nearly 14 metres long, and the headers never stop during harvest. We aim to complete our lentil harvest each year in less than 10 days," Sam said.

"Lentils are where the money is. The price of land has gone up since then, a lot on the back of lentils."

Related reading:Lentil increase at Sunnyvale

Paul says that lentils are an intensive crop, but worth the effort.

"If you're willing to spend the time on them and do the agronomy, they're a very rewarding crop," Paul said.

With an average yield of 2.1 tonnes per hectare last year, the Corrells have been very successful with their lentils.

"There were some machinery expenses when we were starting out with lentils. A lot of other people weren't prepared to take that risk but we went straight for it," Paul said.

We're just two families who are related, and I think we're a bit more like-minded because we're related. - DAVID CORRELL

This was not the first time the Corrells had taken a risk; initial establishment on the farm was a gamble in itself. Paul and David are second-generation farmers at Sunnyvale, and their parents Ken and Margaret moved to the farm in 1962 on the back of a severe drought.

"It was a really big risk for them to come out here," Paul said.

"Just a few years before in 1959 was the worst drought SA had ever had, Dad was farming in Kadina back then and the drought was taking its toll. The farm was going backwards, and so he started looking around."

Paul believes that there have been six generations of Corrells farming in SA, first settling in Port Vincent, before David and Paul's great-grandfather Robert moved to Kadina.

Related reading: Seven generations help future-proof farming legacy at Spalding

Ken himself was one of four brothers, three of whom set up separate farms in the area. Their father, also named Robert, had gone broke on a farm in Avon, and went to work on the wharves instead.

"Dad (Ken) needed rainfall. It was very dry everywhere, but Dad knew that in Bute, Alford and down around this way they were still managing to reap crops even in those bad conditions," Paul said.

With two young girls as well as the twin toddlers, Ken and Margaret Correll rolled the dice, packed up their lives in Kadina and moved to the property.

"Dad knew he had to get out into some better paddock country, and he ended up buying this property out here," Paul said.

Ken was a shearer, and established the farm as a one-man operation running cattle and pigs, and growing wheat and barley.

Leading by example, the early success Ken had on the farm was enough to inspire the twin boys to pursue farming. Upon completing high school in Kadina, 30 kilometres away, the pair began working on the farm in 1977.

"When we first came home from school we started looking for land interstate in NSW and southern Qld, we thought we had to go farming elsewhere, but we didn't, we came back here," David said.

STOCK FEED: Ken Correll with sons Paul and David carting hay bales for stock in 1978.

STOCK FEED: Ken Correll with sons Paul and David carting hay bales for stock in 1978.

"It was probably a good move not to go, because we're on such great land here. That was a testing time because we really didn't know what we were doing for a couple of years."

Expansion was key. Ken had bought an additional 133ha before Paul and David finished school, and the twins then bought some land at Wasleys when they first returned to the farm, an acquisition they sold 11 years later.

Instead, they focused their efforts on expanding locally.

"We were buying bits of land along the way. We've had six acquisitions since 1994. We bought some land across the road, and then this lot when it came up for auction in 2005, which was perhaps our biggest acquisition yet," Paul said.

By "this lot", Paul is referring to the homestead which is home to Sam, Sam's wife Jessamy and their two children Celeste, 2, and Fletcher, five months. Paul lives two 2km up the road in a house he built with wife Andrea when the pair married in 1984.

They also have a daughter, Heidi, who lives in the Adelaide Hills with husband Jarrad and children Leni, 3, and Sydney, 1. Heidi runs her own business, Dancify, a dance education program for young children.

The original homestead built just before Ken and Margaret bought the farm is home to David and his wife Kathy, and Tim. Tim has 20-year-old twin siblings; Harry, who is a plumbing apprentice, and Matt, who is studying agricultural science at the University of Adelaide.

"There's potential for them to come back to the farm but it's not for me to decide, they certainly don't have to," David said.

Expansion for Correll Biz Farming has also come in the form of leasing land and sharefarming on nearby blocks, all within 30 kilometres of each other. These add an extra 1996ha to the 1576ha the family own and run themselves.

"You have to go backwards to go forwards," Sam said.

"I've always liked that saying. To accumulate land, you have to go backwards to buy it, but in the long run you go forwards."

And forwards the Corrells have gone, starting with pigs being a priority when the twins first returned to the farm.

"Dad had always had pigs, but when we started we set up an intensive piggery. We built our own pig sheds, and built it up to a 70 sow piggery," Paul said.

"That shut down about 10 years ago. We did very well out of pigs but then there was no money left in it for us and we were starting to get busier with cropping, so we shifted to make that our main focus."

WORKING TOGETHER: Paul, Tim, Sam and David Correll - the tight-knit family unit behind Correll Biz Farming.

WORKING TOGETHER: Paul, Tim, Sam and David Correll - the tight-knit family unit behind Correll Biz Farming.

The Corrells grow wheat, barley, lentils and canola, and have experienced good yields and prices for the crops in the past few years. They also have about 80 ewes, which complement the grain very well, according to Tim.

"It's good doing sheep work for a couple of weeks every now and then just to change it up. When I know I'm doing sheep work, it's going to be a good day," he said.

But the main focus is cropping.

"We've really picked barley up in acreage this year from what we were last year, and especially two years ago. Barley's worth a lot more now, so we've grown more of it at the expense of canola, and a little bit of lentils have come off too," Paul said.

Related reading: Great season to send crops 'bonkers'

The Corrells' ability to work together has been a defining factor contributing to their success on the land.

"We've stayed together as brothers and worked together. We're not big farmers, and if we split up we would be average to small. We'd have no strength to purchase, and our efficiency on machinery owning would be lost," Paul said.

"As Sam and Tim were leaving school, I didn't know if they'd want to split up, but they didn't. Everything works."

David also praised the tight family unit and the lack of friction.

"I've seen collaborative farming and that's starting to gain momentum, and it's sort of evolved that we're doing that," he said.

"We're just two families who are related, and I think we're a bit more like-minded because we're related."

Jessamy, who grew up on a farm 20 minutes away, says the good productivity and efficiency of working together as a family is very important.

"It's a really nice family network, and I think that's what makes it work. They're not plateauing or just doing the average, they're going towards the future, making it a good place for our kids and future generations to want to take over," she said.

But only if they want to be farmers, Sam says.

"Who knows, Celeste might want to be a truck driver," he said.

People have their different roles, but everyone can do most things. - PAUL CORRELL

Sam and Jessamy met at the Kadina hotel, and the jury is still out on who approached who first. The pair met on Jessamy's first night in town after moving to the area as a teacher.

"I snapped her up pretty quickly," Sam said.

Sam himself entered Correll Biz Farming full-time following about five years of shearing locally and doing seasonal work on the farm.

"My first year was 2006, and we had a terrible drought. It was our worst year, so definitely one which sticks in my mind," he said.

Tim came into the business nearly a decade later, in 2014. Sam's shearing had its benefits for Tim too, who met his partner Andrea at the shearing sheds one day.

"Andrea is from South Africa, she moved here five years ago," Tim said.

"She was studying a Certificate 3 in rural operations at Regional Skills Training in Arthurton and came out to watch the shearing one day."

While the Corrells come across as 'jack-of-all-trades' kind of characters, the four men have their specialties in the business.

"People have their different roles, but everyone can do most things," Paul said.

"Sam and myself do the harvesting together, we spray and chase water too, and the others do the spreading of the fertiliser and the truck driving."

NEXT CROP: Jessamy Correll, holding Fletcher, five months, with her husband Sam, holding two-year-old Celeste.

NEXT CROP: Jessamy Correll, holding Fletcher, five months, with her husband Sam, holding two-year-old Celeste.

The Corrells believe that the best aspect of working as a family is that there is always someone nearby who can lend a hand.

"Back when my father was farming, it was a one-man operation," Paul said.

"I don't think it's as good now if you're trying to do that, you have to be there all the time. Now we can have our breaks, if you want to go and do something else, you can. We try not to work too much on weekends, unless it's seasonal work and then it's flat out."

While Correll Biz Farming is seemingly a well-oiled machine, there are still some uncertainties, and proposed mining in the area is a worry for the four men.

"It's a big concern for the next generation if mines start getting dotted around here," David said.

"We've got a really good clean, green image with China and Japan and all our export markets, but if we start getting mining dust as we're reaping that's a big issue."

Related reading: Adaption crucial to Lettons' eggs-cellent business Glen View Poultry

Echoing David's sentiment, Sam is worried about the proposal.

"The mining is all planned to be open-cut which is pretty invasive, and you can never regenerate that land to be cropping land like this," he said.

The family is clearly community-minded, and between the four men, they have held positions with school councils, sporting clubs, the Country Fire Service and the local Ag Bureau.

Paul is also a past president of the Yorke Peninsula Field Days.

"It's a huge event in this area, 35,000 people attend over the three days. They're the oldest field days in Australia and the biggest in SA. They're voluntarily run by nine Ag Bureaus. I joined the committee, and they needed someone as president so I went through," he said.

"Sadly, someone broke in and burnt down our new administration office about a month ago. We've lost so many historical files as a result. The field days this year are still going to go ahead though."

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Looking to the future, the Corrells are aware that their structure is eventually going to have to change as Paul and David cut back on their workload. The family is not daunted by this, approaching it with a mindset similar to the way Ken approached putting the farm in the capable hands of his twin sons.

"We were really lucky because he never held us back at all, and he let the young ones make decisions," Paul said.

"He had an opinion on everything but it wasn't his opinion that we had to run with if we thought differently to him," Paul said.

Sam agreed that Ken was always interested in how the farm was progressing.

"He was never stuck in his ways," Sam said.

Ken passed away 18 months ago, and Margaret lives in Kadina. She is still involved with the business but is happy for the four men to take the reins.

"Hopefully we can do that with Sam and Tim, we are already letting them make a lot of decisions. We don't want to be slowing them down," Paul said.

But Paul and David have no plans to leave the land any time soon.

"When I eventually cut back I'll still be able to do seasonal work, and I'll still be right to drive a header when I'm 70," David said.

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