Saline County has little in common with the Australian Outback, except for some bonds of friendship maintained over the years and refreshed last week.
The quartet of Chris Kellock, John Ryan, Greg Holmes and Chris Dowling was introduced at a Saline County Commission meeting last week by Presiding Commissioner Becky Plattner after the Australians made a special visit to the area.
"We have some friends of ours from Australia who flew over here to observe the farming skills of the American farmers," Plattner said. The visitors made the trip halfway around the globe primarily for a large farm show in Louisville, Ky.
During the 10-day trip in the United States, the Australians viewed an array of farm equipment and techniques, along with getting in a little recreation.
"The particular catalyst we had for coming was to go to the Louisville farm show because it's a huge concentration of machinery and agriculture. We also wanted to see the tractor pulls, which were extremely good," Ryan said.
Ryan was also the group's first connection with Saline County, explaining that in 1997 he happened across Russell Plattner while looking for farm machinery and inquiring about ag techniques. Ryan said Plattner, now the presiding commissioner's husband, was very helpful and they maintained a friendship.
"I think our relationship has been very fruitful for all of us," said Ryan.
The Plattners have also made a trip "Down Under," he said, viewing how the Australian farms operate and meeting some of Ryan's friends, including those on the trip to the United States.
Ryan said climate and water are the main challenges faced by agricultural producers in Australia.
"Our climate is a Mediterranean climate and we only have 20 inches of rain per year," he said. Faced with several months of no rain, including what in the Southern Hemisphere is summer, farmers like Ryan grow wheat, barley and another grain which is a cross of wheat and rye, instead of crops that need more water -- like the corn and soybeans found in central Missouri.
Australians also raise animals that require less in terms of water, with sheep being the main type of livestock.
Ryan said traditionally Australia "is a very, very big producer of wool." "But in the last 20 years, there has been a huge increase in cattle numbers," encouraging the group to pick up more tips about cattle during its recent visit.
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