Grower Profile – Eddie Smith

Mangoes

My wife and I decided to tackle a plantation about 14 years ago. We knew absolutely nothing about it. I’d worked in transport most of my life, including aviation, and decided I needed a change. I’d been brought up on a farm, so I knew I liked the farming life.

On the day we bought the plantation I was absolutely horrified at what I’d done. But we’re still here. I was born in Carnarvon and I gradually worked my way back.

We bought this plantation for a couple of specific reasons: it was on the main road just 5km from the town centre; we could still get to town if there was a flood event; and it was a tree crop. With the condition of my back I didn’t want to pick up heavy bananas, and I can’t bend over, so I didn’t want a ground crop – so mangoes were it! The other important factor for us was that we loved eating mangoes.

I think it helped not knowing anything. We came into it with a completely open mind, and without a fear of trying different things. We were more than willing to make changes as required.

It’s extremely satisfying being a food producer, especially now that we’ve got to the point where we’ve replaced trees with ones we’ve grown ourselves – it’s completely our own product.

We see customers return year after year and buy the same mangoes over and over again. They want a specific mango they buy off us all the time, they don’t want change. We have a guy who comes up from Perth every year. He buys his dozen trays and he won’t buy mangoes anywhere else.

It’s probably been one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever done, work-wise. Well, I suppose it’s work: I still think I’m playing in a big garden.

For us it’s important to produce the one crop and produce it really well. We’re constantly looking at improving the way we grow the tree. We’re starting a tree replacement program. The older ones are coming out and new trees are going in.

For the future, if mango growers can get together and cooperatively market their product, that would be an improvement for the region. Given the size of the farms in Carnarvon, if you could get all the mango farmers to go under one banner you would really have a market presence and therefore a market strength.