AS a young boy, Angus McLean would contract hay and silage across his home – taking toilet rolls from room to room, visiting different farms in the lounge room, the kitchen and the laundry.
Fascinated with fodder production, his toy collection consisted of farm machinery and not much else.
Fast forward almost 15 years and not much has changed.
The John Deere has been replaced with a Fendt 716, and these days the toilet rolls are five-foot bales; but the sentiment is still the same – from before he could walk, Angus McLean loved farm machinery.
Today, at 17 years of age, he runs the family farm silage and hay contracting business – complete with two Fendt tractors, two balers and an assortment of rakes, mowers and other equipment.
“I convinced Dad, when I was 13 or so, to buy an old Welger baler – we used to bring in contractors, but I wanted to do it in-house,” Angus explained.
“Dad gave in – and then the bloke down the road asked if we could do his paddock as well; he was a bit surprised when a 13-year-old kid rocked up to start work the next day.”
Angus represents the next generation of McLean family farmers.
His parents, Andrew and Lisa, purchased land at Hansonville in 1990.
Since then, they have evolved – purchased land where they could, improved soils and imported genetics.
Today, the family operate Jade Park Angus stud – a breeding operation where the family are passionate about producing quality bulls through an AI and embryo breeding program.
Sam, Angus’s older brother, helps out over the summer holidays – but spends much of his time in Adelaide where he is studying medicine.
In contrast, Angus disappears from the Wangaratta High School each September – lured by the gentle thrum of tractor engines as another hay season begins.
Rather than confine Angus to school, Andrew and Lisa have instead chosen to support his passion.
“His enthusiasm for harvesting is sometimes hard to balance when you have to turn up for school the next day,” Andrew said.
“Angus will go all night – he often does, to bale the best product – but I’m older than him, so it’s my job to help him learn that you can’t go all night and all day and still expect to be productive at the end of the week.
“His contribution to running the pasture for the stud is crucial,” Andrew said.
“We rely on him heavily, and he is now part of all the big decisions made on the property.”
Despite his involvement from an early age, Angus is not allowed to leave school until the end of this year, no matter how ready he is to take on a full-time job, or how much he begs.
“Being exposed to the real world, the business world, that’s a good thing for any kid,” Andrew said.
“Learning about cash flow, about putting money aside for good and bad times.
“But you are only a kid once – you have the rest of your life to work.”
Time is something Andrew is acutely aware of, and is part of the reason Angus was given rein early.
In 2002, Andrew was diagnosed with stomach cancer.
With a poor chance of survival, the boys’ first years were spent watching dad struggle.
“I never knew how much time I had,” Andrew explained.
“I wanted to leave something; I taught them to swim when they were five, and I thought well, that’s something – when Angus first wanted to drive the tractor and bale hay I thought it could help the whole family, as well as teach him a skill-set.”
Now, Andrew has beaten the odds – one of very few to survive – but the lesson of time, of balancing work and life, remain.
“Angus is so enthusiastic – he just wants to learn more and more – but you’re only young once,” Andrew said.
“I want him to work, and to love what he does, but being a kid is important too.”
Like all young, Angus is focused on the future – enthralled with the idea of what could be.
Long term, he has plans to expand – the purchase of an irrigation block up the King Valley is high on his wish list.
“I want to grow lucerne,” he said.
“But you need irrigation – you can yield more, guarantee your own season; something we can’t do here.”
Andrew and Lisa are enormously proud of both their boys; Sam, who was dux at Wangaratta High School, who spent hours studying each night and is now on the way to becoming a doctor.
And Angus, who can’t wait to leave school because, from the moment he could walk, all he wanted to do was drive tractors.