NQ farmer's growing resilience pays off

NQ horticulture industry "back on it's feet" two years after 2019 floods

News
Watermelons: $5. An old truck with a tray piled with hefty watermelons parked
beside the highway between Townsville and Charters Towers stands as a sample of
the hundreds of acres of fresh produce grown at Jon Caleo's Black River
Produce enterprise.

Watermelons: $5. An old truck with a tray piled with hefty watermelons parked beside the highway between Townsville and Charters Towers stands as a sample of the hundreds of acres of fresh produce grown at Jon Caleo's Black River Produce enterprise.

Aa

The North Queensland horticulture industry has bounced back following the devastating Monsoon trough event in 2019.

Aa

AFTER losing 800 tonnes of produce in the 2019 monsoonal floods in North Queensland, a Charters Towers producer has bounced back with hundreds of acres of fresh produce planted this season.

Jon Caleo's family farming Black River enterprise has been able to continue pioneering the North Queensland vegetable cropping industry with a North Queensland Restocking, Replanting and On-Farm Infrastructure co- contribution grant less than two years since the monsoon trough weather event.

The Black River Produce includes two farms in North Queensland, 20kms east of Charters Towers on the Burdekin River and a second farm 20km north of Townsville.

Devastated: Watermelons that have been underwater on the Caleo family's farm at Charters Towers, where they were 17mm off receiving 2m of rain in 2019.

Devastated: Watermelons that have been underwater on the Caleo family's farm at Charters Towers, where they were 17mm off receiving 2m of rain in 2019.

Mr Caleo said without the grant, administered through the Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority (QRIDA), the operation would likely not have recovered.

"Our business would probably not be in operation now if it was not for the grant, we would be struggling," Mr Caleo said.

"It wasn't a choice, it was a necessity. If we hadn't accessed the grant we probably would not be in production today.

"There are 20 people who would not be employed and there would be cows running on this ground."

The damaged infrastructure including roads and 200 acres of watermelons destroyed in the disaster were replaced with the North Queensland Restocking, Replanting and On-Farm Infrastructure Grant.

The Black River enterprise lost about eight weeks of production at a time when watermelons were bringing the best prices in the past 18 months.

The Black River enterprise lost about eight weeks of production at a time when watermelons were bringing the best prices in the past 18 months.

Mr Caleo said the replanting and infrastructure grant helped them in two specific ways including purchasing plastic and seeds.

"The infrastructure element has helped us mainly with roads; 99 per cent of what we lost was roads and in the case of the home farm, it was a bridge which was totally washed away.

"The things the grant was designed to replace is exactly what we needed it for. We didn't need it for anything else. That's where it was targeted and that's where it helped us.

"We grow watermelons for eight months of the year, pumpkins for 12 months, asparagus for four months, broccoli for four months and we're experimenting with some garlic.

"These new crops came about because the farm was quarantined with cucumber green mottle mosaic virus which came in an imported seed in 2015 so we needed to start looking around for other crops that weren't affected by the virus."

What started as a pawpaw, zucchini and capsicum farm exporting to New Zealand, Black River has developed over the past three decades to stand as one of the most significant vegetable cropping businesses in the region.

What started as a pawpaw, zucchini and capsicum farm exporting to New Zealand, Black River has developed over the past three decades to stand as one of the most significant vegetable cropping businesses in the region.

Black River now have ambiguous plans to increase the asparagus production and substitute domestic retailers' dependence on Mexican imports with locally-grown produce.

"If the plans come to fruition the whole farm will be asparagus," Mr Caleo said.

"The farm is going well. Our asparagus is doubling production every year, melons are going well, prices are quite high this year.

"The farm is back on its feet and close to where it should have been before we had the flood."

  • For information about the North Queensland Restocking, Replanting and On-farm Infrastructure Grants, Freecall 1800 623 946 or visit www.qrida.qld.gov.au
Aa

From the front page

Sponsored by