Sellers of other badges often marvel at the seemingly strong hold John Deere has on buyers and maybe the George Him story explains some of that appeal
George Him’s life has been an incredible journey of survival and success that started when he fled the horrors of the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia and made a fresh start here in the 1980s.
Today, quietly overlooking the picturesque Southeast Queensland’s Glasshouse Mountains where pickers bring in a winter crop of strawberries from one of George Him’s farms aptly named Oasis Berries, George tells his story.
“When I first started the business here, I was very young,” George contemplated for a moment as it brought back memories.
“I was in my early twenties and the banks would always turn me down. They said I was high risk.”
George urgently needed a tractor to help with his expanding order book, to help with everything from preparing the ground for planting to spraying for pests and diseases, but was simply unable to get a loan.
Then, everything changed for George when he visited his local John Deere dealership, and while looking at some shiny new models he thought would be out of reach, he was told about John Deere Credit, now known as John Deere Financial.
In an ironic twist of fate, George Him who barely escaped with his life in Cambodia, and after so many financial institution knockbacks, became the very first John Deere Credit customer approved for a loan in Australia.
What the loan meant for George
It is fair to say George was at a crossroads and without the upscale to a current tractor his strawberry growing operation was doomed to be kept at a minimum level of bare survival only.
But that chance step onto the John Deere dealer pavement changed everything for George and gave him the chance he needed.
“We were approved for the loan and from there on we’ve never gone anywhere else, George confirmed with gratitude, we’ve stuck with John Deere ever since.”
With the assistance of a John Deere tractor replacing countless hours labouring by hand, Oasis Berries has expanded to include multiple properties in Queensland located at Caboolture and Stanthorpe. All the while allowing the operation to grow its fleet of John Deere machinery and develop the business.
“I’d suppose you could say it’s in our blood, growing strawberries,” George added.
“I’ve gone through it all, from being a picker, to a grower, to now you could say an entrepreneur.”
The will to succeed was strong
George says determination and hard work were instilled in him from his earliest years.
As a child, everything changed for George after his father disappeared one night at the hands of the Cambodian regime, his mother uprooted her six children and escaped.
They took the few possessions they could carry and eventually boarded a plane to safety.
“We migrated to Melbourne in 1983 as refugees – so we thank the Australian government – and ever since we have been in the strawberry industry,” George confirmed.
“We were working for Italian families back in those days and my family bought our first property in Wandin just out of Melbourne. That was in 1985 when the interest rate was at 18%.
“We paid it off in two years and the bank manager was very surprised and asked how we did it.
“We didn’t tell him that we had a four-bedroom house that we turned into a mini factory and made costumes, like Batman. After school, I would go to the farm and work or help with the sewing.
“And the whole family collectively worked together and never drew wages and that’s how we made ends meet.”
Today, George has five children of his own, with eldest son Jet now in his twenties and keen to take over the business.
“I love strawberry farming because I think it’s been passed down from my dad and I reckon I will pass it down to my kids,” Jet asserted.
Jet recalls early memories of sitting in the cab of the John Deere with George as he worked the farm. These days, Jet’s the one behind the wheel.
“Before the season starts, we use the tractors a lot,” Jet explained.
“We do a lot of groundwork with the John Deere the large frame 6175M tractor – grading, packing the ground in, preparing the soil. After that, we just use the smaller ones to do spraying and slashing.
“John Deere is the best for us because of the power, especially the 6175M with its powerful 129kW (175hp) engine and a 663R front-end loader attached – it just does everything we need. And it’s really simple to operate.” Jet added.
For George, simplicity is also the key to his machinery fleet.
“Maybe I’m used to the green and yellow but I find it’s much easier to operate a John Deere,” George explained.
“They’re very reliable, well-built and look better than all the other ones too. I love John Deere to be honest,” George concluded.
To hear more about George’s story of becoming a successful strawberry farmer with multiple properties, watch the video on this link.