Sunny side up: a new crop for Clunes

February 2nd, 2024Sunny side up: a new crop for Clunes

The field full of sunflowers on the outskirts of Clunes has been attracting its fair share of attention.
Clunes’ Malcolm Hull with the sunflower crop growing at Clunes in a shares arrangement with Andrew Fraser of Frakel Farming Produce. Image: Eve Lamb

The field full of sunflowers on the outskirts of Clunes has been attracting its fair share of attention.

Growing these golden glories is a bit different here but all going well with the crop, that’s been planted by Miners Rest’s Andrew Fraser in a shares arrangement with Clunes’ Malcolm Hull, they may just become a more common sight into the future.

Long time Clunes local Malcolm Hull, who owns the paddock, says they’re growing the 12 hectare crop after Andrew approached him back in September with the slightly different farming proposal.

“We own the land and he’s got the skills and machines,” says Malcolm.

Andrew Fraser runs Frakel Farming Produce, a stock-feed business selling hay and a wide range of livestock-feed grains that he also grows.

The anticipated sunflower seeds are destined for use as quality animal feed ranging from birdseed to a component in horse feed mixes, Andrew says.

It’s the first time he has diversified into growing sunflowers and it’s all a bit experimental, but so far – fingers crossed – the weather has actually been on side.

“It’s been quite a damp summer which has been a bit of a Godsend for this crop,” Malcolm says.

It’s not believed to be the very first sunflower crop ever planted in Clunes as a commercial venture but, that said, it’s been a very long time since the immediate area saw its last field full of sunflowers grown on such a scale.

“I’d say it’s the first crop grown here for a very long time. I’d say we’d probably have to go back to the early ‘90s when one was grown in the Mount Beckworth area,” says Malcolm whose family goes way back at Clunes.

“My father always used to call this paddock (that the sunflowers are growing in) Kelly’s paddock after the family that once owned it.”

There are currently just a handful of other commercial sunflower crops in across the wider district including one at Ascot further down the road toward Ballarat.

Andrew Fraser is also growing that crop in a partnership arrangement with another local there.

“It’s a summer crop and it’s my first crop of sunflowers, says Andrew. “I put the Clunes crop in about a week before the one at Ascot.

“The reason I decided to grow it is just because it’s so hard to find sunflower seed. Normally it’s  grown in the top part of New South Wales or in Queensland, and around Shepparton too, a lot further north.

“I‘ve seen a crop in Smeaton a few years ago.”

They’re also known to be grown at Dunnstown near Ballarat.

Andrew and Malcolm say the 12 hectare crop at Clunes was sown back in October and it’s been pretty straightforward since then, with a late application of fertiliser administered a little while back, and harvest now anticipated toward the end of March.

It may possibly be necessary to rig up some gas scare guns to operate during daylight hours just to keep the potential interest from cockies and corellas at bay as the seeds ripen, Andrew anticipates.

“It’s something a bit different here but in Europe there’s tens of thousands of acres grown for oil production,” Malcolm says.

“We were in France back in 2019 and there was just paddock upon paddock of them.

“They’re certainly eye-catching and there’s been plenty of inquiries  and people interested in it,”

“We’ll just see how it goes this year and if it’s a good-yielding crop maybe we could look at growing them for oil.”

Words: Eve Lamb

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