Bumper lime crop on trees in Hamp­ton

Pricey limes spark idea for new busi­ness

South Burnett Times - - RURAL WEEKLY - ME­GAN MASTERS me­gan.masters@thechron­i­cle.com.au .

A BEER can quite of­ten make a bad day seem a lit­tle bet­ter, but not many peo­ple find it can change their lives.

But af­ter a hot day on their cat­tle farm at Hamp­ton, Joel Her­laar brought home a car­ton of Corona beers to share with dad Mark.

The eye­brow-rais­ing price of $2 per lime came up in con­ver­sa­tion and the idea for a new en­ter­prise was born.

They started out by plant­ing a lime tree in the back yard to sup­ply their own limes for fresh wa­ter and icy-cold Coronas and soon dis­cov­ered it was not too hard to keep it alive and fruit­ing. Five years later they took the plunge and bought 300 trees, cre­at­ing Twin Pines Limes.

“I nearly killed them in the first year,” Joel laughed.

Not to be daunted, he threw in a fur­ther 200 trees and cot­toned on to the im­por­tance of wa­ter and fer­tiliser.

They never looked back and ended up with 4000 trees planted over 7.2ha.

This year the Her­laars were set to haul in their big­gest crop to date.

“Our first com­mer­cial pick was 520kg and the se­cond one was 15 tonnes, then from that we got to 97 tonnes last year,” Joel said.

“We pro­cessed 97 tonnes of fruit through a dou­ble garage.”

But af­ter pick­ing up an in­cred­i­ble bar­gain on some pro­cess­ing ma­chin­ery, the pack­ing side of things is set to ex­pand nicely and the old dou­ble garage can be re­tired.

Joel said the only thing that stopped them from ex­pand­ing the or­chard fur­ther was wa­ter se­cu­rity.

He said the farm was just out­side the Hamp­ton Ir­ri­ga­tors Scheme, where op­er­a­tors could draw un­lim­ited wa­ter from the town sup­ply when the farms were un­able to cover their own wa­ter needs.

They had plans to sink an­other bore this year to help keep the trees wa­tered dur­ing pe­ri­ods like the re­cent one with no rain and plenty of heat.

He said the ideal would be to lobby for a sim­i­lar scheme to help farm­ers out­side the Hamp­ton scheme’s bound­aries.

As he chat­ted away, Joel kept one eye on storm clouds over the hill, will­ing them to come close enough to make a dif­fer­ence to this year’s pick.

He said the trees had suf­fered some heat stress, with leaves be­gin­ning to curl within two days of be­ing wa­tered.

It was dicey times for a bit, with prices listed only a few weeks ago at $4 a box and the heat mak­ing it harder to leave fruit on trees.

“That’s no good though be­cause the boxes cost $2,” he said.

“The price a few weeks later went back up to $14 a box.

“This is the hottest sum­mer they’ve prob­a­bly been through – that last week­end they were stress­ing bad but we’re on top of it now.

“But as long as it doesn’t wreck the fruit we could hold them for an­other two or three weeks and they could keep siz­ing up while we wait for a bet­ter price on the mar­ket.”

He said Hamp­ton was ide­ally placed cli­mate-wise to time the pick for the best prices, which rose dra­mat­i­cally as the coastal crop started to dry up and the cooler-cli­mate places like Hamp­ton got to work.

PHOTO: ME­GAN MASTERS

HERE’S CHEERS: Twin Pines Limes owner Joel Her­laar with the farm's new pro­cess­ing equip­ment.

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