The phrase ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ perfectly sums up John Burgess’ recent photographs of cotton pioneer Frank Hadley back where it all began in the 1960s: in a cotton field at Wee Waa.

The beaming smile on the veteran farmer’s face shows how thrilled Mr Hadley was to be on farm for cotton-picking season and spend the day, out and about, with the Kahl family and Merced Farming team, relatives of the late Paul Kahl – Mr Hadley’s pioneering partner.

“Frank’s smiling face is always a pleasure to not only photograph but to also just sit with him for a chat. The pleasure of visiting the cotton harvest and riding the picker once again had him grinning from ear to ear,” said local photographer John Burgess, who has captured significant moments with the Wee Waa farming families over the years.

Mr Burgess said at ‘97 years young’, Mr Hadley insisted he climb the ladder to ride the picker.

“His smiles are always infectious,” Mr Burgess added.

Whiddon Group’s recreational activities officer Liz Berger, is one in a million, helping to create unique experiences for residents, such as Mr Hadley’s farm trip.

“The morning was as magical as it was emotional for all of us,” said Liz, who is dismissive of formalities and insists on being called Liz.

“To see Frank so full of energy and excitement was amazing.

“He told James Kahl that his son Sam was going too fast.

“He put his head in the front of the picker checking the spindles and bars then stated ‘this part hasn’t changed much’.

“A day to remember by all.

“A huge thank you to James, Sam and Daniel Kahl for the memories we created for Frank,” added Liz.

“We like to get Frank out here because we know how much he loves it and what it means to him, and that one was a special day,” said James Kahl.

There are many reasons to admire the photos captured but a special significance would be well-known to many readers, familiar with the story behind the successful, daring, and enduring partnership of Mr Kahl and Mr Hadley, who together with their families, ambitiously packed up their homes in California’s San Joaquin Valley and headed for Wee Waa in the Namoi Valley to grow cotton in the 1960s.

The story of the Californians’ dream becoming a reality is legendary amongst locals. In 1961, the farming duo sowed the first seeds at ‘Glencoe’, Wee Waa and in 1962, harvested a successful cotton crop sparking the start of the modern Australian cotton industry.

The photos taken by John Burgess recently were captured at ‘Glenarvon’, just next door to ‘Glencoe’.

The innovative pair didn’t just help to kick-start a new agricultural sector in the region; with the support of their wives Norma Hadley and the late Jean Kahl, they helped to shape, enrich, and significantly contribute to the growth of the Wee Waa community.

And created a lasting connection between two families.

The Kahl family has continued to farm at ‘Glencoe’, and today, three generations of the family have been involved in running the farming operation.

Mr Hadley and his wife Norma now live in Wee Waa, but no doubt enjoy farm visits and seeing the legacy they helped create shine through, with cotton grown across the district today.

“It was a good day,” said Mr Hadley.


To order photos from this page click here