Grower’s zest for lime farm­ing reaps re­wards

Tablelands Advertiser - - NEWS - Kimberley Vlasic

REGENERATIVE farm­ing prac­tices have boosted a Ma­reeba lime grower’s bot­tom line and earned them a rep­u­ta­tion for big, vi­brant fruit with a longer shelf life.

Twenty-two years ago Debbie and Jose Caa­mano traded their jobs as of­fice and con­struc­tion work­ers for life on the land, be­com­ing one of the first farm­ing fam­i­lies on the Table­lands to plant Tahi­tian limes.

The cou­ple has ex­panded to 13,000 lime trees, 1200 cus­tard ap­ple trees and 1000 pomelo trees, while min­imis­ing their chem­i­cal use.

“It just got to the stage where our in­put costs were get­ting higher every year and we were hav­ing to keep feed­ing the trees all the time,” Ms Caa­mano said.

“Whereas now the trees are more set­tled and we’re sav­ing money by do­ing it. It would nice to be com­pletely chem­i­cal free, that would be our goal.”

To com­bat ris­ing in­put costs, the Caa­manos learned how to brew their own bio-fer­tiliser, chelat­ing the prod­uct to strip it of fillers and make it more plant avail­able.

They also mulch to con­serve wa­ter and have started staged re­leases of Anas­ta­tus wasps to con­trol the fruit spot­ting bug in­stead of spray­ing.

The Caa­manos’ ef­forts to build soil health and re­gen­er­ate un­healthy soil haven’t gone un­no­ticed and were show­cased dur­ing a pre-con­fer­ence tour as part the 2016 Na­tional Bi­o­log­i­cal Farm­ing Con­fer­ence, which was co­hosted by Ter­rain Nat­u­ral Re­source Man­age­ment.

Their ap­proach has also helped them carve out a niche in the mar­ket at a time when the lime in­dus­try is ex­pand­ing and be­com­ing more com­pet­i­tive.

“I guess it comes to hav­ing a good name for your­self and hav­ing an agent that will look out for you,” said Ms Caa­mano.

“We’ve got a good name be­cause of bio-fer­tilis­ers. We’ve got a good shelf life on our fruit and they keep the colour longer.

“The way I see it is that the fruit is full of min­er­als and not just wa­ter and chem­i­cals.”

The Caa­manos have con­tin­ued to in­vest in their farm, de­spite a “ter­ri­ble” sea­son due to a lack of rain and an unsea­son­ably warm win­ter.

A $1.2 mil­lion MAF Ocea­nia au­to­mated pack­ing line im­ported from Spain and up­graded shed prom­ise to cut down work­ing days from five days a week to just a day and a half.

“We’re pos­i­tive,” said Ms Caa­mano.

“We’ve got a young plan­ta­tion that’s com­ing on and we’re look­ing for­ward to a big year in 2017.” To com­ment on this story: ed­i­to­rial@table­land­news­pa­pers. face­­land­sad­ver­tiser

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