Look in­side a 1200 tree olive op­er­a­tion

Central and North Burnett Times - - RURAL WEEKLY - . ME­GAN MAS­TERS me­gan.mas­ters@thechron­i­cle.com.au

DE­SPITE the fam­ily farm run­ning since about 1890, Bernie Ma­hon took a fair bit of time to de­cide what he wanted to do with it.

The 5.6ha farm at Bony Moun­tain, near Ip­swich, was orig­i­nally a dairy and small crop­ping en­ter­prise, but Mr Ma­hon said dairy had be­come in­fea­si­ble on such a small farm since changes to the in­dus­try in the 60s and 70s.

He kept a few cat­tle on the property while he went out to work in su­per­mar­kets and truck driv­ing for a few decades, be­fore fi­nally de­cid­ing to bite the bul­let and plant 1200 olive trees in 1998.

It was the be­gin­ning of a whole new life­style for Mr Ma­hon and his wife Lor­raine.

Al­most two decades later and they had grown Wa­ter­cress Creek Olives and Limes, with a wide range of value-adding ideas.

A tahi­tian lime or­chard was the next big step on top of the farm’s al­ready-es­tab­lished fig trees, and from there Mr Ma­hon said it was all about fig­ur­ing out how to get the most bang for their buck.

That in­cluded a side busi­ness in gourmet prod­ucts like flavoured olives, tape­nades, fig bal­samic glazes and flavoured olive oils.

“We were do­ing the olives and look­ing for dif­fer­ent things to do, and olives and bal­samic go to­gether,” he said.

“There are all the in­fused oils and salad dress­ings, so bal­samic fit­ted nicely.

“They go hand-in-hand tra­di­tion­ally back a long way.”

And af­ter a few dis­ap­point­ing years of selling their limes at the mar­kets, he de­cided to strike up di­rect re­la­tion­ships with restau­rants and night­clubs in Bris­bane and said it net­ted some­thing close to dou­ble the profit.

Next up, they started the an­nual Wa­ter­cress Creek Olive Fes­ti­val.

The ninth an­nual fes­ti­val was held last week­end and Mr Ma­hon said more than 800 peo­ple rolled through the gates to check out the farm and pick up some gourmet treats.

“With the olives we also do tape­nades and br­uschetta spreads and we use the figs to make figs in bal­samic,” he said. “We buy the bal­samic from Stan­thorpe and re­duce it to make a glaze.

“We just had our olive fes­ti­val a week ago and as part of that we demon­strate ev­ery­thing, and ev­ery­one who tasted it bought some.”

He said there was plenty of work in­volved in the gourmet lines and it had all but taken over the fam­ily home, but it re­ally did pay off to the point he was pre­par­ing to put in an on-farm out­let to cater to the nu­mer­ous bus-loads of peo­ple who come from Bris­bane, Toowoomba and Ip­swich to check out how the farm runs.

“There aren’t too many peo­ple around do­ing what we’re do­ing be­cause it is a bit labour-in­ten­sive,” Mr Ma­hon said.

“A lot of peo­ple have trou­ble selling tape­nades but we have a good mar­ket and peo­ple come back for more.

“I’m the taster and I must

There aren’t too many peo­ple around do­ing what we’re do­ing be­cause it is a bit labour in­ten­sive.

have good taste buds be­cause there aren’t many duds.”

He said this year had been a great sea­son for figs on his farm, but only thanks to a huge amount of ir­ri­ga­tion, and the limes were as steady as ever, but the olive crop was touch-and-go for a while.

With olives lov­ing the cooler cli­mates down south, this year’s record-break­ing sum­mer heat should have been enough to kiss the crop good­bye, but Mr Ma­hon said it turned out much bet­ter than ex­pected, par­tic­u­larly given he had de­cided to cut his losses and not wa­ter the grove.

— Bernie Ma­hon

PHOTO: ROB WIL­LIAMS

Bernard Ma­hon with some of the Wa­ter­cress Creek Olives and Limes pro­duce.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

The lime pack­ing shed at Wa­ter­cress Creek Olives and Limes.

PHOTO: DAVID NIELSEN

Peo­ple can oc­ca­sion­ally catch the Ma­hons at mar­kets in the re­gion.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

BIRD’S EYE: Wa­ter­cress Creek Olives and Limes from above.

PHOTO: INGA WIL­LIAMS

Bernard Ma­hon out in the olive grove.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

Wa­ter­cress Creek Olives and Limes has a wide range of flavoured bal­samic glazes.

PHOTO: INGA WIL­LIAMS

The Ma­hons now have a wide range of gourmet prod­ucts pro­duced on the farm.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

Wa­ter­cress Creek was one of the few farms in the area able to pro­duce a crop of figs this year.

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