In January 2020, Australian Organic visited certified organic producers in Far North Queensland to learn more about their operations and understand how their businesses had been affected by the 2018/19/20 floods, the more recent storm cells and the long-term drought.
Producers in the region who were impacted by the floods reported that the recovery process will take around 8 -12 months, with many already back up to normal production.
DJ and EK McCarthy
McCarthy’s Organic Bananas is a banana plantation located in Far North Queensland. Managed by 2nd generation farmer Luke McCarthy, the property caters for organic and conventional produce which is supplied to wholesale market and independent retailers.
The McCarthy’s have been operating in the organic industry since 2003 and have been certified to the Bud since 2006. Bordered by two rivers, the location of the property provides ideal growing conditions for banana trees. Two creeks running through the property provide a natural, protective border; separating a triangular section of space which is ideal for organic cropping. This allows for simple, natural separation between their organic and conventional crops.
McCarthy’s Organic Bananas reported that they have been affected by the recent extreme climatic conditions in several ways. Although the business is not located in the full drought area, the farm has been receiving less rain, causing smaller bunch sizes and therefore affecting volumes. The farm was also affected by last year’s floods in Far North Queensland. After heavy rain hit Townsville, the region experienced extremely high temperatures causing stress to the trees, smaller fingers and point end scarring. The McCarthy’s reported that it will take around another 8 months for the bananas to ratoon and to get back to their full operation.
“Despite the challenges faced by the changing climate, these farmers demonstrate enormous resilience. It was great to understand how we can deliver more value to our members and industry.”
Niki Ford, CEO, Australian Organic
Goodman Estate is a certified organic cacao farm near Port Douglas in Northern Queensland. The property was originally owned and cleared by Derrick Goodman, a World War survivor who put his heart and soul into growing sugar cane but was always open to other options.
After taking over the sugar cane plantation, the Goodman family’s interest in cacao began when researchers visited the property in 1999 to trial cacao growing in the region. A one hectare plot was selected for trial on the farm due to its good drainage, water supply and its naturally existing wind break.
The cacao trees were originally planted by the DPI with wind breaks and shade trees as it was believed they were susceptible to wind damage, however the trees gradually produced their own protective canopy by growing closer together and the shade trees were no longer required.
Over 10 years later, Goodman Estate is home to over 2.5 hectares of established cacao trees and supplies its cacao exclusively to Daintree Estates to produce delicious Australian chocolate.
A generational business, Goodman Estate was originally owned by John Goodman’s father and now John and Melanie operate the farm with occasional help from their sons.
John reported that thankfully their business hasn’t been affected by the floods due to their elevation and good drainage.
FACT: Green ants help to naturally prevent fruit spotting bugs and also farm mealy bugs for their sugary excretion. The Lady Beetle, a natural mealy bug predator, keeps the mealy bug pest under control when numbers get to high. John learn about this natural ecosystem from an entomologist and explains this is how most young trees survive the bug frenzy in the rainforests of the wet tropics in northern Australia.
Worth Organic is an organic banana plantation managed by 3rd generation farmers Greg Worth and his wife Kylie. Worth Organic (also trading as Envirofresh) are now a fully organic operation and are significant suppliers of organic Cavendish bananas – supplying to supermarkets, mainstream retail, wholesale and direct to smaller retailers.
Greg Worth’s grandfather started growing bananas in the Innisfail area in the late 1950s and Greg’s father continued this tradition. As a 3rd generation grower, Greg now continues to keep banana farming in the family, however converted to organics in 2003 – now growing organic bananas on the 250 acre property in the North Johnstone River Valley.
“We wouldn’t grow bananas now any other way!”
Worth Organic were unfortunately affected by the January 17th storm at the beginning of 2020, losing 60% of their crop. Kylie Worth commented, “We have never experienced this extent of loss from a thunderstorm. Cyclones are usually our climatic threat, having lost 100% of our crop when the last cyclone passed over the Innisfail region. Hopefully we won’t have to experience more losses this year from storms or cyclones.”