Fear for the fu­ture drives Tom Dun­can

Orchardist named Cit­i­zen of the Year for his ef­forts teach­ing chil­dren

Isis Town and Country - - Front Page -

ORCHARDIST Tom Dun­can’s love of farm­ing blos­somed when he moved to the Isis re­gion 30 years ago, but it was his fears for the fu­ture of food pro­duc­tion that pro­pelled the 65-year-old to Childers’ Cit­i­zen of the Year award.

THE last thing Tom Dun­can ex­pected to hear through the speak­ers at the Isis Cul­tural Cen­tre on Aus­tralia Day was his name.

For Mr Dun­can, 65, a man con­tent with work­ing in the back­ground, the “com­pletely un­ex­pected” an­nounce­ment of his Cit­i­zen of the Year award dur­ing Childers’ Aus­tralia Day cer­e­mony was over­whelm­ing.

“I def­i­nitely didn’t ex­pect it,” he said.

“I’m sup­posed to do it all in the back­ground. It’s pretty over­whelm­ing.”

Mr Dun­can moved to the Isis re­gion from the Gold Coast in 1983 and be­came one of the first or­chardists in the area.

He had an “in­ter­est­ing” re­la­tion­ship with his fel­low farm­ers in the re­gion, who grew only cane, but per­se­vered.

More than 30 years later he con­tin­ues to work the land.

While that pe­riod has thrown up its fair share of chal­lenges, Mr Dun­can’s big­gest con­cern is what will hap­pen in the next 30 years.

As he men­tioned dur­ing his ac­cep­tance speech, he is wor­ried about how young peo­ple will be con­vinced to re­turn to the land as pro­duc­ers and feed fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

It is for that rea­son Mr Dun­can, as pres­i­dent of the Fruit and Veg­etable Grow­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, has worked with lo­cal schools to im­ple­ment a pro­gram that teaches stu­dents the ba­sics of food pro­duc­tion.

“We’ve part­nered with almost ev­ery school in the area and do­nated money to them for beds to grow ve­g­ies,” Mr Dun­can said.

“We’re train­ing kids to grow vegetables and teach­ing them to farm.”

As well as teach­ing chil­dren how food is pro­duced, the plan is more about en­sur­ing the next gen­er­a­tion of farm­ers un­der­stand their work meth­ods will “not be the same as dad’s”.

Mr Dun­can’s fear is in­valu­able lo­cal knowl­edge could soon be lost as pro­duc­ers strug­gle to com­pete with the cor­po­rate dol­lar.

He said “lit­tle farm­ers” should not be lost to the re­gion as larger com­pa­nies con­tin­ued to shoul­der their way into the lo­cal mar­ket.

And if – or when – big business punts the lit­tle farmer to the kerb, Mr Dun­can hoped lo­cals could hold im­por­tant jobs in those en­ter­prises.

“I want lo­cal kids to get those jobs,” he said.

“Not as lack­eys or do­ing those lit­tle things – as peo­ple who make the de­ci­sions be­cause they know the area.

“If they’ve got this lo­cal knowl­edge, the kids from here will get those jobs.”

PHOTO: MATTHEW MCIN­ER­NEY

LO­CAL ACHIEVERS: The award win­ners at Childers’ Aus­tralia Day cer­e­mony, which was held at Isis Cul­tural Cen­tre.

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