3 February, 2024
Growing organics a fruitful venture
SURROUNDED by UNESCO World Heritage rainforests and the Great Barrier Reef, Good Life Organics, works in harmony with the environment.
The Mena Creek and Currajah certified organic family farming operation, which was started by their parents Rob and Jenny, is now managed by two brothers along with their respective spouses – Ben Abbott with his wife Kate and Matt with his wife Naomi.
They work with a very diverse, hard-working and dedicated team to grow both bananas and papaya.
The name Good Life Organics has a special significance to them.
“It is a brand that has been developed to represent what we are about,” Matt said.
Good Life Organics initiated the cultivation of papaya as a strategic move to diversify their crops, driven by both business considerations and a commitment to environmental sustainability.
The red flesh papaya variety RB1 is grown.
“Dad first started growing papaya 30 years ago and grew these big reds - taste and eating quality was exceptional, only problem was they were huge,” Matt said.
“I can remember some of them being up to 5kg.
“Selling them was a challenge.”
The farming operation felt the repercussions of both last year's wet weather and the recent crossing of Cyclone Jasper.
“The wet weather and heat extremes caused the trees to stress, dropping leaves and resulting in losses in production,” Matt said.
“Currently, only a small amount of papaya is being grown as we are still learning how to grow them and marketing them has been challenging.”
Matt said he believes that if they work out how to grow papaya and boost their sales then they will have the ability to produce more.
It takes around eight to 10 months from planting to harvesting with the papaya being grown in rows with drainage and irrigation.
The papaya is harvested by hand and is sold in domestic markets on the East coast.
“Demand was slow when we started, but it is improving,” Matt said.
“It’s organically certified, tastes amazing and has a good shelf life.
“Recently we were successful in obtaining a grant to help purchase a drone. Big thanks to Queensland Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association and to Angela from Queensland Fruit and Vegetable Growers for helping us with everything so far.”
While Matt sees opportunities for the expansion of the papaya industry in the area, he is aware that there are challenges associated with growing it.
“It is definitely a crop that grows well here,” he said.
“But there is a big but… To quote another farmer that has grown papaya - they find a new way to die every day.
“The biggest challenge that we face is actually growing them, keeping them alive and happy.
“Sometimes it feels like a very brief feeling. However, it is very rewarding when we can do that.
“We are very lucky to have the team we do and all credit to them when at times we get it right.
“When someone that has eaten one tells you it’s the best papaya they have ever eaten, that’s a pretty good feeling.”
The health benefits of consuming papaya include a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer, aiding in digestion, improving blood glucose control in people with diabetes, lowering blood pressure and improving wound healing.
“We are lucky enough to be able to have the opportunity to farm because of the hard work our parents have put in.
“Dad first started growing bananas back in the early 80s. Growing up on the farm we caught the bug of wanting to be farmers. We are lucky that we love what we do.
“Sometimes I think our wives do question why they chose to marry a farmer.
“Wanting to grow happy plants that produce good food that is healthy and that people enjoy runs deep in our blood. It is hard to describe the feeling when you can pull that off.
“Farming in any kind of setting has its fair share of challenges but we have a really great team that manage to turn up each week, work through the challenges and put out a product that tastes good and is good for you.”