Grower’s zest for lime farming reaps rewards
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. com.au facebook.com/tablelandsadvertiser