Fear for the future drives Tom Duncan
Orchardist named Citizen of the Year for his efforts teaching children
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.”
LOCAL ACHIEVERS: The award winners at Childers’ Australia Day ceremony, which was held at Isis Cultural Centre.