Garry’s parents bought their property in Montecollum near Mullumbimby in 1980. Back then it was a run down, feral banana plantation and cattle paddock. The family lived in Sydney but held the title to the property.
Soon after they bought it a banana farmer approached them with a request to replant the farm with Cavendish and later Lady Finger bananas and lease it from them. For over twenty five years it was a chemical based farm that caused endless environmental problems.
In around 1995, the family built a house on the farm and Garry moved to the property. Garry told us, “I recognised the problems associated with the bananas immediately, specifically soil erosion resulting from constant ground cover spraying. From the moment I arrived I was determined to one day turn the farm around and fix the problems caused by neglect and mismanagement. The only problem was we had a legally binding lease with someone else so it wasn’t until thirteen years later that I was able to take control and convert it to a biological system.
We are in the early stages but I see it as a long term or lifetime project. I’m a trained horticulturist and bush regenerator so I know what I’m doing when it comes to growing things and looking after the landscape.”
The main problem Garry inherited as far as the crop is concerned is Panama disease which has wiped out more than half of the plantation. But he sees it as an opportunity to experiment with soil biology and compost and compost teas. He believes the problem can be overcome with healthy soil as Fusarium is a weak and opportunistic organism that can be suppressed with biological diversity.
Garry plans to replant with Goldfinger, FHIA18 (Bananza) or a similar Panama resistant variety if he is unsuccessful with biological methods. That and a replanting program will take time and finance that I don’t have at this stage. In the meantime he still has two or three hectares of healthy plants so he is producing a small amount of fruit weekly.
Garry says, “I aspire to grow quality produce with minimum or nil inputs. I want to rely on nutrient cycling from regular applications of farm grown organic mulch, chipped branched wood, composted banana trash and brewed compost tea. No animal based fertilisers, no mined rock dust fertilisers and definitely no chemical fertilisers. That’s the long term goal and I believe it’s possible.”
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