Go North: NRF growers head for the Tweed
Go north they said, in the open air. Up north, where the skies are blue. Go north, this where we’re gonna tour.
We all know that the Northern Rivers is home to an incredible array of food crops, none more so than those in the Tweed region. With that in mind, the Grower’s Group decided that a hands-on tour of some of the most cutting edge sites in and around the Tweed presented the perfect opportunity to learn from people leading the way in avocadoes, bananas, passionfruit, sugarcane and more.
So we went, we learnt, and yes, we ate!
Our first stop was Anderson Avocado Orchard, where Graeme Anderson is renowned for his research and development. Graeme has worked extensively with government and university partners to explore how single-cell technology and tissue culturing can fast-track nursery stock via a disease free process. With the capacity to produce 5000 trees from a single cell, his approach is a potential game-changer. And with back orders for 5 million trees already in place, that’s a good thing for the industry and ultimately for consumers.
Echoing that commitment to innovation, David Peasley’s work in passionfruit breeding, cross-breeding and evaluation is unrivalled. Generous with his time and knowledge, he took the group through the ins-and-outs of a quest to produce strains that can reliably deliver on flavour, aroma and disease resistance. With the aim to achieve 200 fruit per vine, each weighing 200g, the days of withered, wrinkly passionfruit may be behind us.
Graeme and David’s shared interest in developing industry resilience stood out to many of the tour participants. Grower’s Group chair Andrew Burnett from Burnbar Fruit said it was one of the many things he found inspiring about the day.
“Everywhere we went, everyone we spoke to was passionate about what they do,” he said.
NRF’s own Matt Weinert from the Department of Primary Industries hosted the next site visit, walking and talking us through the DPI’s banana trial site. In an industry so heavily affected by adverse weather conditions and the influx of disease, this site is critical to the development of banana types that can withstand new strains of panama disease that have the capacity to fundamental shift the industry in Australia.
Matt and David then combined forces to lead a tasting of various types of passionfruit and bananas, expertly pointing out the characteristics, flavour profiles and cooking applications of each variety.
From that sugar high, it was time to venture to a sea-level low, and spend some time with Robert Quirk at his family’s sugar cane plantation. Robert, with his deep interest in soil regeneration, managed to make the technical accessible, sharing many insights and tips around climate change and its effects on agriculture. With sugarcane often maligned for its impacts on the land, Robert is proof that it is possible to meet financial and environmental outcomes with careful and thoughtful approaches to production.
By now, the tour group had been inundated with knowledge and expertise, so lunch at Tropical Fruit World was a welcome opportunity to absorb, reflect and discuss what we had learned through the morning. But while the area of interest may of changed, the sense of sharing was just as evident, with Kelly Patterson and new chef Chey Farrell laying on a feast for the group. Showcasing a plethora of fruits grown on the farm, and supported by generous NRF members Cheeses Loves You and Salumi, the lunch was vibrant and delicious.
The only thing that could possibly round out a day like this was a visit to Husk Distillers, the only paddock to bottle rum distillery in Australia, for a sneak peak at their soon to open cellar door. Ably led by Harriet Messenger, the group had a fantastic tour of the facilities, enjoying a refreshing cocktail along the way.
Go North participant Julia Foyster from Tweed Real Food summed up the day perfectly when she said that it was “a beautiful day out with lots of fun. We experienced the most incredible food made from mainly local produce! It was amazing to connect with like-minded businesses and get great insights into their operations and the networking and support amongst NRF members was outstanding.”
Go North was an initiative of NRF’s Growers Group. It was made possible with sponsorship from Burnbar Fruit and Mountain Blue Farms. The Growers Group would also like to thank Anderson Avocado Orchard, Peasley Horticultural Services, the Department of Primary Industries, Quirks Sugarcane, Tropical Fruit World and Husk Distillers.
Georgina Inwood, Table Under a Tree