Grower Profile – Byron Sutcliffe

Asparagus, bananas, zucchini, and pumpkin.

I was working in Queensland as a fridge mechanic and my parents wanted to retire from their plantation in Carnarvon. They weren’t too sure what to do with the property, but I said I’d like to give it a go. I used to come to Carnarvon every Christmas, and I liked the place, so I thought I’d try farming.

In 2015 my experience of farming was nothing. It’s been a steep learning curve; I didn’t even know how to drive a tractor at the start. There have been plenty of people to talk to, though.

I had a good mate in Queensland who was a banana farmer, so we ended up planting bananas in my backyard in Mackay. When I got to Carnarvon I always wanted bananas as one of my crops because of that. Growing asparagus just happened by chance when another farmer had some spare plants. I’m still sussing out a good system for asparagus, it’s been the trickiest one to grow.

I’m enjoying being a farmer more and more. It’s not as lucrative as I thought, but I suppose I’m still doing my apprenticeship. The lifestyle is great for a family. I’ve got two little kids and every couple of hours I can go in and have a cup of tea and help out. They love it here.

It’s a rewarding job. It’s good to watch the crop go from seed to harvest. It’s great to see a good quality piece of fruit or vegetable at the end.

I’m looking after the soil through rotations – I don’t try and grow on every square inch. When the asparagus is finished, then I put something else there, or when the bananas are finished, I’ll put something else there.

In the future I’d like to have everything more organised. I think timing is everything in farming, and sometimes it feels like I’m chasing my tail. But in 10 years I should have a good routine and things will get done at the right time.

There’s not a future in increased production of the same old stuff in our area. I think we’ve almost reached the limit of what Perth can take of the standard lines. We need to look at export or different products.