How the dry im­pacts our pump­kin farms

How the Dol­janin fam­ily has grown their farm­ing busi­ness

The Western Star - - RURALWEEKL­Y - CAS­SAN­DRA GLOVER Cas­san­[email protected]­ral­

PUMPKINS have be­come the main game for the Dol­janin fam­ily, af­ter years of be­ing grain grow­ers.

An­thony Dol­janin runs AJD Farm­ing, near Ye­lar­bon 50 km east of Goondi­windi, with the help of his wife Jes­sica, two chil­dren Ruby, 4, and Os­car, 3, and his par­ents Dali and Joan.

Mr Dol­janin said they moved from grow­ing grains and pulses to grow­ing pumpkins and cot­ton in or­der to get the best re­turns and the best use of their land.

“We have 100ha of ir­ri­gated cot­ton and 40ha of ir­ri­gated pumpkins,” he said.

“We’ve slowly been grow­ing our pump­kin busi­ness each year in con­junc­tion with Quali­pac.

“We’ve been grow­ing pumpkins for seven years and this is our sec­ond cot­ton crop this year.”

Mr Dol­janin said the drought had af­fected the growth of his crops.

“It’s been hot and very dry, so it’s been quite ex­pen­sive to grow be­cause we’ve had to ir­ri­gate ev­ery­thing.

“We’ve only had 100ml of in-crop rain­fall since Novem­ber. Nor­mally you’d have ex­pected to have about 350ml in that time.”

The high tem­per­a­tures through­out the sea­son have also af­fected the pol­li­na­tion of the Dol­janins’ pump­kin crop.

“It’s been a re­ally tough sea­son. Pol­li­na­tion was dif­fi­cult be­cause there aren’t a lot of bees around now, so we bring in bees to pol­li­nate the crops,” Mr Dol­janin said.

“But it’s got to be un­der 26 de­grees for the pollen to be vi­able. So you don’t get a lot of time in the peak of sum­mer be­cause by 8 or 9 o’clock it’s al­ready 30 de­grees.

“The bees will still fly around but whether they’re achiev­ing any­thing for me will be ques­tion­able be­cause the pollen may not be vi­able.

“We get lo­cal honey pro­duc­ers to bring the bees in to do the job. We think it’s worth­while.

“The fruit set prob­a­bly wasn’t as good as it should have been but we’re still get­ting some pretty good yields.”

Pumpkins have a male and fe­male flower, so the bees are needed for cross-pol­li­na­tion.

“Each plant pro­duces both flow­ers,” Mr Dol­janin said.

“The male is tall and thin and comes off a long stem.

“The fe­male flow­ers are closer to the main branch and have the fruit un­der­neath the flow­ers.”

Mr Dol­janin is in the process of pick­ing his pump­kin crop. He said they pro­duced 1500 tonnes of pumpkins per year.

“It’s all hand-har­vested. You have to cut the in­di­vid­ual pump­kin off the vine,” he said.

“You have to cut the vine as close as you can to the pump­kin so it doesn’t dam­age the other pumpkins.

“They also have to be placed care­fully in the bin. There is a fair bit of qual­ity con­trol that has to be done.”

The en­tire crop will take about two months to pick.

Mr Dol­janin said frost could pose a prob­lem for the pump­kin crop.

“We have to get them all off be­fore the frosts,” he said.

“The plant dies off in the cold weather, and too many frosts will burn the fruit and freeze them inside.”

Mr Dol­janin has been on his prop­erty since 2006, but his fam­ily has been in the area since 1939 when his grand­fa­ther im­mi­grated to Aus­tralia.

“We’re Ital­ian and Yu­gosla­vian,” Mr Dol­janin said.

❝ It’s been hot and very dry, so it’s been quite ex­pen­sive to grow be­cause we’ve had to ir­ri­gate ev­ery­thing. — An­thony Dol­janin

“My fam­ily grew to­bacco in the In­gle­wood area for years. Then we had a poll here­ford stud, Bonni Foi. We dis­persed the stud in the late ’90s.

“We were al­ways crop­ping, but that sort of be­came our fo­cus af­ter that.

“We did a lot of hay and lucerne hay. We still do con­tract bal­ing and mak­ing our own hay, but it’s just not as big a part of our busi­ness now.” AJD Farm­ing is also part of the Dis­cover Farm­ing ini­tia­tive, which fo­cuses on trans­parency and show­cas­ing what farm­ers in the re­gion have to of­fer.


NEXT GEN­ER­A­TION: Ruby and Os­car Dol­janin help­ing out on the farm.

Os­car and Ruby Dol­janin with their father An­thony Dol­janin.

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