IT started off as a few Bundaberg families taking a chance on growing macadamias but nobody expected their bright idea would one day turn the region into Australia’s largest macadamia producing area.
Garry Sheppard’s parents Col and Pat Sheppard left behind their cotton farm in the Goondiwindi and Moree area to grow macadamias in 1989.
The Sheppards were one of about five families in the Bundaberg area who established their own trees and later supplied up to 200,000 trees to some of the now larger operations in the area.
They went against traditional practices at that time and planted a broad acre operation with mechanical planting and harvesting.
“We got some advice from Lismore (before we started) because really in those days there still wasn't a great amount of people with long term operations,” Garry Sheppard said.
“We came to Bundaberg because the scale of land and water was available here where it wasn’t in the other areas.”
While Garry and his wife Andrea have since relocated to Gympie on a 30 hectare property with 24-year-old trees, he said it was the mechanical operation of macadamias that made it such an attractive venture for people to take up.
The Pearce family were also involved in the early establishment of the Bundaberg macadamias and with others were building their own machines, experimenting and learning as they went.
Andrew Pearce said once the Steinhardt family got on board, the flood gates opened and macadamias in the area took off.
“We had a lot of challenges,” he said at the Food Heroes dinner.
“The soil wasn’t brilliant, we had water issues but we fought for everything we could in this area.
“With the old school still here and the new ones coming in this area will continue to lead the world.”
The handful of original Bundaberg growers has expanded to more than 50 with their production rates larger than the 400 growers in the Northern Rivers, New South Wales for the first time.