Interview with Athol Chester at his home in Mandurah
21 Sept 2019 by David Chick, photos by Stephanie Brown for iHempWA Association
One of the founding fathers of the hemp industry in WA, an inspiration at 90 years young, Athol Chester is a true blue Aussie battler. All his adult life, together with his wife Francis he has been in actively challenging the status quo, seeking improvements and striving to provide solutions for the betterment of the men and women on the land.
For more than two decades he has been proudly flying the hemp flag, encouraging people to take notice and get the hemp industry up and running. Athol is the embodiment of tireless determination, they can take the land from the farmer but you can’t take the farmer out of the man.
Born 31 October 1930 and raised by his folks with his 3 siblings, on a farm at Paynes Find in the eastern wheatbelt. At age 21 he met Francis, they Married in 1952 and had 3 children, Janet, Dennis and Peter.
They managed the family farm working with the environment until the bank called in their loan using the government wheat quotas to remove them from their home and steal their land. Not to be discouraged, The Chesters found another farm at Cleary in need of stewardship and they moved onto the land, working hard to reestablish the farm, there was nothing they could do the year drought visited the region but they endured. Ultimately it was the wheat quotas which couldn’t be filled causing their family to lose everything to the bank again.
Athol told us, “After we lost the Cleary farm and then the Bonnie Rock farm in 1988 we moved into Mandurah. The town and people have been kind to us. The friendly owner of the hemp shop in town would always talk to me about hemp but I would tell him, ‘It’s a drug – that’s it’, until one day he handed me a flyer and urged me to read it. It was titled ‘Billion Dollar Crop’ it changed my view and to this day I am still doing what I can to get the hemp industry up and running here in WA.”