History of Aubrey Fowler


Aubrey Fowler and his younger brother Tom took over 3300 acres of poison-ridden bushland called Congeling Park in 1924. Within 20 years the property had become the leading producer of clover seed in Australia.

Tough times


In the hard years of the 30’s and 40’s, Fowler Bros clover seed played its role in bringing big areas of WA farming land into useful and economic production.  Aubrey planted clover back in 1924 – onto newly cleared land at one end of the property called Westmere. This clover was the first Dwalgarnup early variety in the Great Southern WA.  

When Aubrey first moved to Congeling Park mechanisation was still a long word with little meaning in the WA farming community. On the original 3300 acres, of which 500 was cleared, the operating plant of the property was  one 1912 reaper-thresher, a 1912 fifteen-disc drill, a Fordson tractor, a four tonne box wagon, a spring cart, a plough and five old ex-world war 1 horses.

Money was tight and Aubrey joined the shearing teams on nearby properties – some of which he eventually bought – to make ends meet. Despite their low budget the brothers began the mammoth task of clearing the heavily timbered property.

During the Great Depression the farming community were asking Aubrey for work – just for their food. Aubrey employed as many employees as he could and to provide money for the unpaid staff he started boxing matches in Willams at 2/- a bout.

Despite the hardships, the clover business was expanding as the need for seed on newly cleared land across the state increased.

Australia’s Clover King


In 1932 Aubrey began to specialise in producing clover seed.  At that time supplies were low and the knowledge of its nitrogen-fixing benefits were still not well researched. Aubrey believed that clover has great soil improvement qualities and was excellent for grazing sheep and other farmers in the area followed his example using seed bulked up from Aubrey’s innovative seed extraction machine.

Aubrey had been dubbed “Australia’s Clover King” spreading the message through the farming community to ‘Carry more through clearing and clover’.

In 1933 Aubrey started the Congeling Park field parties to demonstrate to other farmers the benefits of clover in building up light soils. These ran through until the 1950’s.

Hand clearing was difficult, but with the success of clover some new plant was bought for the first time in 1927 and the rapid improvement of pastures allowed an impressive 5750 head of sheep to be carried by 1937.

From 1937-1943 another 4800 acres was added to the Fowler’s holdings and the scene was set at the end of the war for a major thrust forward.

Power farming at Congeling Park


In 1945 at the end of the war, a real revolution arrived. Aubrey had successfully negotiated the release for agricultural purposes of a bulldozer – the first in WA. In the same year Aubrey flew to Sydney and negotiated the release of WA’s first pick-up baler.

The bulldozer caused a sensation when it arrived in the Great Southern. At 68HP with a four metre blade it could sink dams, pull two ploughs and a rigid tyne combine and seed 100 acres every 24 hours. At harvest it could also drag three headers.

In 1947 another 3500 acres was bought from various neighbours and by 1951 three bulldozers were being used to clear the virgin bush on 11,500 acres of Fowler Holdings. In 1953-54 alone Aubrey cleared and brought into cultivation 8000 acres.

At its peak, in 1960, the brothers owned 37,000 acres of which 30,000 had been cleared in the previous 12 years.  In 28 years they had increased their acreage by 900 per cent, sheep numbers by 2,800 per cent and wool production by 3,000 per cent.

Aubrey’s dozers cleared the land for the new Hale school in Wembley Downs Perth, created a sport ground and trotting track in Williams and filled in an old gravel pit to create a site for the new CWA hall.

A head above the rest


When the machinery was not available to allow the clover business to advance Aubrey built what he needed.  Initially, clover had been harvested by hand-raking, but Aubrey built a machine for the job from 44 gallon drums covered with sheep skin.

In 1930 it was the modification of an old windrower bought for 2/6 at a sale that lead to Congeling Park’s first seed extraction machine. By 1956 the property’s mechanics were making the biggest clover harvesters in Australia with revolutionary design characteristics which were later incorporated in commercial machines.

After 50 years of pioneering the clover industry in WA, Aubrey and his son Jamie, built a new coarse grain cleaning machine on their farm.

 

Williams Seed Cleaners


Story to come.