GENRATIONS: A recreated photo of the killer Family Farms with Rod, David, Lola and Josh Killer.
GENRATIONS: A recreated photo of the killer Family Farms with Rod, David, Lola and Josh Killer. Paul Donaldson BUN110817CANE3

Farming family's photo recreated after 23 years

CAN you spot the difference?

One family, two photos, 23 years - and plenty has changed for the Killer family.

Hector Killer, his son David, grandson Rod and great-grandson Josh posed amongst the green stalks at their Hummock farm for the NewsMail's October 8, 1994 edition.

Fast forward to 2017 and Hector has passed on.

But Josh, now 26 - as Rod was in the first photo - has his own heirs to the cane empire with his wife Rianne.

Lola is now three, the same age as Josh was in the photo on the left.

Her sister Macy is 7 months old.

BACK IN '94: David, Hector, Josh and Rod Killer on the family farm.
BACK IN '94: David, Hector, Josh and Rod Killer on the family farm. Paul Donaldson BUN110817CANE4

Back in '94 Josh could tell you everything you needed to know about setting up a water winch; Lola, meanwhile, is already mad about tractors.

Like Josh and his dad before him, she heads out on the crop with her dad and falls asleep on the floor above the humming motor.

"It knocks her out pretty quick,” Josh says.

Some things, it seems, stay the same.

But David Killer has seen it all since he was a kid of five years old sitting on the bonnet of the Hummock's first rubber-tyred tractor, a Farmall A, in the mid '40s.

"Before that they used to have steel wheel ones,” he said.

It did the work of six horses, ploughing three acres (1.2ha) a day, and Hector used to sit on his verandah and watch his neighbours with the horses after a day's work.

It caught on and before long every farmer in the area had one, David said.

"Those were the hand cutting days. I suppose it was in the '50s (when it changed to a harvester).”

"It's crazy to think we've gone from an original tractor like that to one that steers itself with GPS today,” Josh said.

The 26-year-old has also grown up in the post-cane fire era.

The Killers stopped burning around 1994.

For David and Rodney, it meant leaving behind the cornerstone of the job.

"I grew up from a young age going to cane fires night, after night, after night,” Rod said.

"I'm probably among the last people with experience - Josh just didn't have that.”

"The art of burning cane was always something, and that's really becoming lost,” David said.

The lost art of reading the wind and controlling the flames carries more meaning for David than most.

He lost his aunt and uncle, Mary and Charlie Zunker, in a cane fire in 1956.

"It got over into another block and he went in after it and collapsed, and she went in after him,” he recalled.

"All those pine trees on the esplanade at Bargara are in their memory.”

The need for burning has diminished with the progress of harvester design.

"They got to the stage where they could quite successfully move along with a bit of pace,” Rod said.

A year ago Rodney added to the Killers' 120 acres of cane at the Hummock with 240 more at Sharon.

"It was a bare farm; there was no crop,” he said.

"We just set out to grow cane on it and do it all ourselves and it's been quite satisfying.

"To plant it, grow it, harvest it, it's very rewarding.

"We wouldn't be doing it if Josh wasn't involved or here.”

For Josh, the key to securing the future of cane is staying ahead of the game with new technology and new ideas.

From beans for Edgells to rockmelons to cattle, the Killers have mastered many a crop - "there's not much we haven't touched on,” says David - but Rod is relishing the chance to put his energy into cane.

"I haven't had the opportunity in my working life just to grow cane. I've been involved in five different things and cane was just one of them,” Rod said.

"Now my time isn't getting diverted to something else... we've found over this year we could probably handle more if the opportunity came along.”

It's an encouraging statement in a climate where, amidst uncertain sugar prices and rising electricity bills, many are doing the opposite and branching out into small crops.

The Killers hope the sugar will run in the veins of the next generation.

Lola's not too sure about harvesters, though; "they're very noisy,” she says.

Luckily, she's got a bit of time to make up her mind.



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