RB Sellars Hi-Summer 2021 Collection
February 16, 2021
Welcome to RB Sellars
Hi-Summer 2021 Collection
A Collaboration with Graziher Magazine
Photography by Alysha Sparks.
The Cooper family is a farming name synonymous with innovation and hard work. With six mixed farming properties spread across three states, they’re not ones to sit idle and wait for another drought. For Seth and Ali Cooper, being active members of their Jamestown community in South Australia is just as important as the quality of their merino wool.
A large sandstone home at the head of a three-sided valley is cooled in the summer by gully breezes. From the front veranda, a lawn sweeps its emerald arms around a giant Kurrajong tree, lilting down to the fence line. The garden’s borders brim with ornamental pear trees, diosmas and society garlic. Beyond, an orchard acts as a moat to the front paddock, in which a southern cross windmill languidly turns. Beyond undulates South Australia’s Belalie East valley, the dust rising to refract the molten golds of another day folding in on itself.
At the back of the house, Ali Cooper has forged an oasis; a lush line of defence against the summer dry. Double pale pink carpet roses and agapanthus line the redgum sleeper retaining wall, followed by prunis elvins trees and David Austin roses. Hedges of lavender nod their lilac heads amid rows of Gleditsia and claret ash trees. All wear badges of resilience against the salt of bore water, heat and frost.
It’s a refuge for Seth and Ali Cooper, who moved in permanently after the pair finished at The University of Adelaide in 2003. Alongside their three children, Charlie, 14, Zara, 12 and nine-year-old Lottie, theirs is a family entwined with the bigger picture of the CC Cooper & Co farming operation; well over a million-acres spread South Australia, Western Australia and New South Wales. Business is very much entrenched in the family, alongside Seth’s parents, Leith and Averil, brothers Tom and Evan and sister Tara. It’s a business wrought from necessity; a proofing against the dry which has raked so much of the country in the past five years.
“Seth and his brother Tom are very innovative and strong on strategic planning,” Ali says. “This has resulted in the expansion from a single base to covering environmentally diverse properties across three states. It is a great risk management strategy which allows us to manage better during the droughts. It’s not often that all six properties experience drought at the same time.”
Seth and Ali’s home is one of three Cooper family residences on the home farm, seven-kilometres outside Jamestown. With just over 7000 acres, the mixed farming enterprise includes export oaten hay, wheat, canola and vetch for grazing, while also running some of the family’s merino flock and their two feedlots which aid in the management and preparation of sale sheep from the Cooper’s pastoral properties.
The garden is Ali’s pièce de résistance; a stand against the tough times and an outlet for her creativity. “Creating a garden was really important for us, particularly after the 2006/07 drought here at Jamestown. I wanted to create an oasis that blocked the view of the dry paddocks that we lived in, so when Seth would come in for lunch they could escape from the drought beyond,” Ali says. “Fortunately, we have a bore, however its salt content means I have to be careful with what plants I choose and how I water them. Purple flowering plants seem to be the toughest for both salt, heat and drought, even though I dislike the colour purple! Gardening gives me a great sense of achievement and allows me to be creative. It has thrown me some challenges, especially the past few years, where we have had below average winter rains leaving no subsoil moisture going into very dry summers. I’ve lost trees and roses that have been established for years. It can be very demoralising at times, which is why the garden needs to constantly evolve.”
While rainfall has vastly improved for the Coopers, the remnants of the tough seasons drags its heels around every corner. “Drought doesn’t stop the moment you get rain. It takes time for the land to recover, for stock numbers to increase, for heartaches to mend. Having geographically diverse properties has definitely helped to carry breeding ewes through the drought. When New South Wales went into drought in 2017/18, our property, Madura Plains had its last reasonable year before drought set in. Now western New South Wales has seen some significant recovery, our other stations, Wonga and Broughton Vale are re-stocked, but Madura Plains is still drought affected and running at about 25 per cent of capacity,” Ali says.
The house looks vastly different to its ramshackle days when Seth and Ali, fresh from their degrees in Agricultural Science, moved home for good. “At that stage, the toilet was outside, the bathroom was a DIY job done by Seth’s grandfather with a hot-water system heated by the Rayburn woodstove in the kitchen; pink walls and green ceiling,” Ali says. “Water pressure was non-existent as it was gravity fed from a concrete rainwater tank situated at ground level next to the house. Our house mates were mice, so all food and crockery was stored in the few overhead cupboards in the kitchen.” The pair quickly cracked on with their renovations, adding a whole new house to what was already there with four extra bedrooms, a butler’s pantry and a large loungeroom. The kitchen benchtops are made from recycled jarrah timber from the farm’s old horse stables, while the walls are adorned with the bright works of local artist, Alysha Sparks, kids artwork and vintage family heirloom pieces.
Ali says excellent communication and transparency is critical to maintaining smooth family ties on a day to day basis. “Family farming businesses are one of the most complex dynamics and can lead to the demise of many families or businesses. I’m very fortunate that Seth and his brother Tom get along really well and work excellently together,” Ali says. “They both have different management skills that complement each other, and is part of the reason why we have managed to expand the way we have. Because of this relationship and that fact that Seth’s parents are very supportive, it makes it all the more enjoyable working in the greater family unit. Building positive relationships with staff and the family unit and working hard for the greater good of the business is how I manage working with the greater family unit.”
A farm girl from childhood, Ali is a good hand. When not helping muster, driving machinery, general administration or catering for shearing, she’s running her latest venture; Jamestown’s ‘The Park’. Boasting seven cabins and camping grounds on the banks of the Belalie Creek, it was a purchase that provided a challenge Ali has relished. “I would drive past on my way into town and think, ‘that business has great potential to promote tourism in our region’,” she says. “A few months before it came on the market I’d been telling Seth I’d have a red hot go if it became available, so when it did I was stunned. Seth’s response was, ‘now’s your chance!’.”
As The Park’s only staff member, it’s a red hot go that comes with a long list of requirements – from gardening and cleaning to admin and maintenance work. It’s meant Ali has had to scale back from her volunteer work, but she still holds on to more than her fair share of jobs. “Our local government area apparently has the highest stats for number of volunteers per head of population in Australia. I love that we’re a community of ‘doers’,” she says. “We have great mix of people that work well and get things done together; leaders, workers, creatives, business owners. We fundraise for charities, cherish our history, support our many sporting clubs, celebrate local events, support local businesses and help where help is needed. Seth and I are strong believers that the backbone of a strong, healthy community is its volunteers and we’ve instilled this belief in our children.”
With an updated colour palette and new breathable, easy-care designs, our Hi-Summer collection takes you from home to town in style.
Shop the first of our New Arrivals with more styles dropping online and in-stores over the coming weeks. Sign up to our Newsletter to be the first to know.
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