Fire can’t keep team down
IN establishing their Natural Evolution Foods, Rob and Krista Watkins have walked the minefields of bureaucratic red tape, cynicism from detractors and worst of all, the biggest monster of the lot – self-doubt.
There were times when they asked themselves what the heck they were doing. But, they never thought they’d have to face a bushfire.
Summer cyclones are always a threat. They are always on the mind of tropical coast horticulturists during summer, but a bushfire?
You just don’t hear about banana plantations being consumed by fire. Rob and Krista lost their 5000 ladyfinger trees at Walkamin on the Atherton Tableland last week to a bushfire. These are the trees they rely on for the fruit that makes their highly valued flour. The trees they lost were planted in
They might never have thought their trees, which are
90 per cent water, could burn. When the fire hit the plantation, the water or sap boiled and the trees exploded.
Rob and Krista overcame the hurdles and built what is now the amazingly successful Natural Evolution Foods business, built initially on green, ladyfinger bananas. It has expanded and achieved international fame. When I spoke to Krista this week she was philosophical. They are already regrouping and rebuilding. One fire can’t keep a good team down.
DID you read the story this week about Kareem Bahlawan, the post-graduate student from Lebanon who lived off-grid as a Long Grass student at James Cook University while undertaking his studies?
Darwin has its Long Grass people, the homeless fringe dwellers who live in the long grass on the edges of the city. Kareem was JCU’s own Long Grass person.
Kareem lived rent-free at JCU, sleeping first in a hammock and then a swag in the scrub. In the hot summer months he occasionally bunked down in an air-conditioned lab. How awesome is this bloke?
He has finished his course work and is now in Dubai finishing off a Master of Science. His days as the Long Grass student are over. At JCU it was sort of like life on the run. I wanted to know what he ate. How he planned his day. Did he light a fire and cook food? Did he have wire snares set for possums and wallabies? What did he say when people asked him where he lived? The truth is it all sounds pretty civilised.
He ‘snared’ his food at the local IGA and did all of his cooking on microwaves in student and staff rooms in university buildings. It had to be done by 10pm.
His day started early. “I’d get up at 6am because of the sun. It would be so hot. I’d make breakfast (in the staff or student room), exercise and then shower and get ready for class.” And he presented like a cleancut model. “I had six t-shirts and four pairs of shorts. I didn’t need jackets. My clothes were always clean. I washed them in the bathrooms where I showered,” he said.
Why did he do it? Why did he choose to live like Daniel Boone? It was for personal reasons. “I just wanted to prove to myself that I could do it.”
He is Lebanese-Canadian and is presently staying with his parents, who live in Dubai, while he searches for employment in the science-environmental sector. He broke it to his parents on Tuesday that he had been living rough on campus in Townsville. They didn’t take this revelation well. In fact, from what Kareem told me, they took it badly.
They told him they would have supported him to stay in an apartment, but as far as Kareem was concerned that wasn’t what it was about. He just wanted to see if he could do it. And he did.
And now the grand JCU adventure is over. The Student from the Long Grass is in Dubai looking for a job.
VETERAN STILL HAS SENSE OF HUMOUR
RAVENSWOOD larrikin Woody Pigram was having some tests done at the Townsville Hospital last week. Nothing unusual about that.
Woody, a Vietnam veteran, has a few issues that the doctors and nurses are helping him sort out.
He had most of his right leg removed in 2013 due to a blocked artery. He lost a leg, but he’s never lost his sense of humour.
He was in the hospital’s PET scan facility last week when one of the nurses went looking for his thongs (note I said “thongs”, not thong). He only needs one, but the nurse wasn’t aware he only had one leg.
She was down on her hands and knees looking under Woody’s gurney for what she thought were two missing thongs. After a few seconds she flung one hand holding a single thing triumphantly in the air and shouted, “I found one, but I can’t see the other one”.
This triggered laughter from the PET scan operator who was in on the joke and then Woody chimed in. It wasn’t until the nurse looked up and saw that Woody was short of a leg that she realised there was no second Chinese riding boot. There was laughter all around. Woody, by the way, is a huge fan of everyone at Townsville Hospital.
Woody is still the caretaker, self-appointed David Attenborough and relationship counsellor at the Ravenswood show ground camping park (all advice is free). Drop in and say “howyagoinwoodymatewantaVB”? Ask him to tell you a joke. You’ll be sorry, but the pain is worth it because nobody in the history of humankind has ever had a worse repertoire of jokes than Woody. I’m sure he will take that as a compliment.
CATTLE TRAVELS 1000KM FOR SALE
INDIGENOUS-OWNED Morr Pastoral Company’s Delta Downs Station north of Karumba runs 45,000 head of cattle on more than one million acres. It’s in the land of big rivers like the Gilbert and Smithburne.
The station’s western boundary comprises creek and river estuaries and the Gulf of Carpentaria coast.
This week manager Paul Edwards, overseer John Kerr and plant supervisor Rowan Beezley, came to see 753 of the station’s cattle sold at the Charters Towers sale. Agent Darrol Crouch, along with agents Queensland Rural, sold the cattle to a number of buyers including Chris Le Feuvre from Reid River.
Two hundred and fifty-six of the steers grossed $192,202.
Mr Crouch said the cattle travelled 1000km to the saleyards from Delta where they had a Meet and Greet in the form of a run through the dip and a feed of hay courtesy of saleyard contractor Leanne Philipson.
It’s a great success story for this remote station.
AG COLLEGES TO CLOSE
THAT great institution, the Burdekin Agriculture College, did a fantastic job training future cane, beef and horticultural farmers.
It went into decline in the middish 90s and by the 2000s was staggering along. The State Government put it out of its misery in 2009. And now the Palaszczuk government backed by Agriculture Minister Mark Furner has dropped the axe on the Emerald and Longreach agricultural colleges.
The government claims the colleges were not meeting modern demands. This is not what AgForce and other rural lobby groups like Martin Bella’s Green Shirts are saying.
The State Labor government probably sees these colleges as fertile breeding grounds for future LNP voters. Labor strategists take no prisoners. They know they can shut down these farmingaligned colleges in the safely held inland LNP seat of Gregory without losing a single vote at the ballot box.
The only people hurt are teenagers wanting to train for a career in primary industries. They’re the ones left in the lurch.
CHEAP FUEL: This was the price of fuel this week in Mt Garnet – Gateway to the Gulf – 466 kilometres north-west of Townsville. If Garnet can do it, why can’t everyone else?
LIVING ROUGH: Marine Biology and Environmental Science post-graduate student Kareem Bahlawan lived undetected in bushes on campus for two years.