Mick Granger, 24, recently returned to his family’s passionfruit business and says other young growers shouldn’t shy away from a life on the farm.
“There aren’t too many young farmers in the industry. People think farming is really full-on, but as soon as you get used to it, it isn’t as daunting as you might think,” Mick said.
The family farm, in Bogangar on the Tweed Coast, has been in Mick’s family for 40 years. Traditionally the Granger’s grew bananas, but moved into passionfruit 15 years ago.
“Like most people in the area we struggled with Panama disease. We’ve spoken to other local farmers about the transition, because they’ve gone through doing the same thing.”
Mick said although the farm faced everyday problems like most businesses, the passionfruit vines were looking good this year and his family hoped to plant more.
“The farm is still quite small compared to other farms, but now with me being back on the farm full-time, we’re looking to get bigger in coming years.”
Mick was working in the electrical industry before his recent return to the farm, and is enjoying the flexibility of working in a family business. “I really enjoy growing. There are a lot of challenges, but that’s one of the reasons I like doing it,” he said.
Mick said daily challenges in the humid climate included an ongoing battle with passionfruit diseases and a lot of manual labour. He added that research into new chemicals would be beneficial for the industry, as well as better methods and practices to maximise what the industry does have.
“A lot of the chemicals we’re using have been around for a fair while. Some more research into getting new chemicals approved would be a very good measure for the industry.”
Mick said he was also interested in the passionfruit breeding program being undertaken by Hort Innovation and Southern Cross University (SCU). “We’ve been assisting, along with many others, in developing the national breeding project with SCU, who will be working with a number of interested growers in different growing regions to get some new varieties,” he said.
“Hopefully with a better understanding of the genetic markers in passionfruit this will complement other breeding initiatives so we can get some new varieties soon. The industry has been working very hard the past few years and we’ve seen a couple of varieties with promise – they’re not quite like the Sweetheart, but they’re definitely promising and we can hopefully build from there.”
This is where a national, industry-led R&D levy is so valuable, Mick said.