Australian agtech is ushering in a new era for the way we farm.

Story + Photos Stuart Walmsley

As part of a family who has lived around Hillston for 8 generations, Vince Cashmere believes it’s probably safe to consider himself a local. “I think I qualify,” says the 90-year-old, who served as a Carrathool Shire Councillor for 19 years. “I describe myself as a sedentary animal, in that I’ve been in the one place, most of the time.”

In truth, Vince has been anything but sedentary. The former grain grower was also director of the local Rural Lands Protection Board for 29 years, helped develop Hillston’s first retirement village, and was president of the show society.

“His contribution to the community has been huge, but he’s one of a good number of locals who are really behind how these places stay alive,” says his son Grant, who ran local freight company Cashmere Transport for almost 40 years. “There’s something about Hillston that people warm to, and I think the civic pride here is greater than in a lot of other communities.”

Situated on Wiradjuri country in central NSW, Hillston is nestled on a horseshoe bend in the Lachlan River, and it was from this feature that it took its original name. The initial European settlement was known as Daisy Hill, then Redbank in 1863 when William Hill, a stockman from nearby Roto station, opened an inn by the same name at a watering point on the Lachlan favoured by drovers. It was renamed Hillston in 1869, in honour of The Redbank’s proprietor, who had passed away 2 years prior.

The town’s fortunes have been directly linked to water, or lack thereof, ever since. From the viability of the initial sprawling stations (William Hovell’s Cowl Cowl was more than 165,000ha), through to the modern corporate-funded horticulture operations, this has always been a place of agriculture.

“It’s a community that’s never had the opportunity to say; ‘Ok, we’re now right on top of it’, because you know the seasons are going to have their dips and peaks,” Vince says.

This story excerpt is from Issue #155

Outback Magazine: June/July 2024