Dragon fruit farm pas­sion is pay­ing off

Ber­nice has en­joyed suc­cess for 16 years

Central and North Burnett Times - - LIFE - Tobi Lof­tus tobi.lof­tus@south­bur­nett­times.com.au

BER­NICE Dana­hay has run the Red Fox Pitayas Dragon Fruit Grow­ers farm, just out­side of Nanango for the past 16 years.

“I orig­i­nally came from Vic­to­ria ... and had never grown dragon fruit be­fore,” Ms Dana­hay said.

“I got in­ter­ested in all dif­fer­ent plants, dragon fruit re­ally took my eyes and I started grow­ing those.

“We’re at the stage now where we are breed­ing new va­ri­eties.

“One of the breeds has come back from com­mer­cial trails and the grow­ers tell me they’re get­ting $2 ex­tra a kilo­gram than other ones and the whole­salers have told them to bring as many as pos­si­ble.

“That’s a pur­ple one, which is very sweet.”

Ms Dana­hay said grow­ing the dragon fruit was a hobby that got out of con­trol.

“They’ve been grown in the area be­fore as a gar­den plant and I re­ally got in­ter­ested in them, as we couldn’t grow any­thing like that where we used to be,” she said.

“I started to plant them and then you know how hob­bies can get out of con­trol.”

Ms Dana­hay said wa­ter was the big­gest chal­lenge to grow­ing the fruit.

“They’re a sub­trop­i­cal plant, a lot of peo­ple say its a cacti and it’s a desert plant,” she said.

“But no, no, no, they like wa­ter. “They love to be fed. “You can see some of the plants are get­ting quite dry, but that’s like ev­ery­body at the mo­ment.”

On top of grow­ing dragon fruit, Ms Dana­hay has grown many trees on her prop­erty and turned it into a trop­i­cal rain­for­est.

“We’ve planted hun­dreds of na­tive rain­for­est trees,” she said.

“When we bought the place it was ba­si­cally just beaten land.

“We’ve got lots of lovely rain­for­est walks and we do bus tours out here.

“Ev­ery­body seemed to love it. There are over 200 plus birds.”

She said op­er­at­ing tours was a good way to in­tro­duce peo­ple to the fruit.

“When we started no one knew what dragon fruit was, it was like huh what’s that,” Ms Dana­hay said.

“Now we sup­ply plants for big grow­ers, we’ve sup­plied the plants for 20 dragon fruit farms start­ing up.

“That’s the main part of our busi­ness, and the new va­ri­eties.”

Ms Dana­hay said she gen­er­ally op­er­ated the farm sin­gle-hand­edly with­out the sup­port of pick­ers or other staff.

“Be­cause of the way dragon fruit work, I can pick some one day, pick some the next and just keep tack­ing away at it,” she said.

“It’s quite good, they fin­ish that flush, I might have a cou­ple of weeks spare, but then they’ll start again.”

Ms Dana­hay said she was get­ting to the stage where she was con­sid­er­ing mov­ing on from the farm.

“I think this year will prob­a­bly be our last and then the place will prob­a­bly go on sale,” she said.

“The boys aren’t re­ally in­ter­ested and I’m here by my­self most of the time.

“Af­ter get­ting the taste of travel over­seas, I’d quite like to do a lot more of that.”

❝ I started to plant them and then you know how hob­bies can get out of con­trol. — Ber­nice Dana­hay

PHO­TOS: TOBI LOF­TUS

GREEN THUMB: Red Fox Pitayas Dragon Fruit Grow­ers owner Ber­nice Dana­hay.

Freshly picked dragon fruit .

A promis­ing new dragon fruit crop.

Red Fox Pitayas Dragon Fruit.

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