As I write, mango harvest is almost done. I will have just enough time to catch my breath before the lime trees are stripped and ready for market. Next in line will be the avocado pick with passionfruit somewhere in between. Life is busy on our mixed tropical produce farm near Mareeba, but it is also very rewarding and just the place to grow a happy family. When I was younger, I had declared that I was never living on farm again, let alone marrying a farmer – it’s funny how you can go full circle.
After leaving school I headed for the big smoke to undertake a Commerce Law degree. With my study under my belt, I began a career as an Accountant in Brisbane. After meeting my husband Matt, and three children later, we began to realise that we need more space – a few chooks in the back yard wasn’t going to cut it. We sold up all of our belongings, packed up the kids and took 12 months off to travel around Australia. Three months into the trip, Matt’s Uncle called and told us he was thinking of buying a farm and that we “should stop bludging” and come back to FNQ to help run the family business. This sent us into a tail spin; at first I said “no!” – as we had just settled into a sort-of travel rhythm. In the end we took the plunge and haven’t looked back. At Blue Sky Produce we grow avocados, limes and passionfruit, as well as four varieties of mangoes.
We’ve made lots of changes to the business and we’ve still go a long way to go. The presence of social media has made a significant impact on our learning and marketing. In the early days we connected with Ian from Groves Grown Tropical Fruit (on Instagram). Ian has visited a few times to assist with grafting and is always on the end of the line if we need him. We saw the real power of social media when I posted a picture of a massive oversized mango we called, “Mangozilla” on Twitter. It went viral and from that one post we were able to find a market for our other oversized mangoes that would have been dumped.
We also ran an auction and raised money for the Buy a Bale of Hay campaign. Two and half years on, we’re now a family of six and although we know we still have so much to learn, we are grateful to be able to spend more time with our children. Nothing compares to having your children by your side when you work.
If you would like to be like Jess and learn from the convenience of your own home, check out the latest NRWC E-Leaders program.
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