National Geographic : 1975 Feb
plains back of Geraldton are reckoned as some of Australia's best wheatlands. Last year they produced close to a million tons of wheat, barley, and other grains. The city it self, even seen from a distance, is identified as a grain center, one of the biggest in Australia, by the massive silos of the Co-operative Bulk Handling terminal. Grain isn't the only resource for this thriv ing town of 19,000. Geraldton's port is home base for the largest single fishery in Australia, the rock lobster, or crayfish, industry. After grain and "crays" come meat and wool. Sheep are part of the wheat operation, grazing on stubble or on fallow land to bring a farmer maximum returns from his acres. And then there's tourism. Geraldton calls itself the "Sun City" and boasts of an average eight hours of sunshine a day all year long. Up north they don't boast about the sun; they just endure it. But here in the cooler south it's considered a blessing. In the port area, early and late, boats of many shapes and sizes bustled about, piled high with lobster pots. The cray season had just begun, and brought with it an aura of bonanza and rancid bait. At the grain ter minal the first truckloads of wheat were rolling in from the farms where oversize combines had started a harvest that would last through January. I drove out to the Williamson farms to have a look at the production end of the wheat business, and talked to Danny, one of three sons who now run the place. "We've got 54,000 acres here, all owned by the family, but with several homesteads on it. My grandfather started all this, and my Dad, that's O. J., well, he built it up. He cleared 20,000 acres in 20 years. The wheat area's defined by the rainfall. You ought to have at least 11 inches, which you won't get much farther east. Government Rabbit Proof Fences also help set the boundary. One runs 1,140 miles from north of Port Hedland to the southern coast." Danny poured a steaming cup from an insulated jug. He looked dubiously at me. I nodded. He poured another. "Didn't know Yanks drank tea," he said.