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City Girl in a Country World

Alice Gorman and Family

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26Aug

Dan Papacek
So you think you have a bug problem?
Spare a thought for Dan Papacek.
This Mundubbera-based entomologist breeds bugs – millions of them – to help farmers fight pests in their crops.

Papacek heads the company Bugs for Bugs, which supplies good bugs – or beneficials – to farmers to release in their crops to control the bad bugs.
It’s a sustainable system called Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and as consumers become more aware of chemical use in food crops, it’s an approach that is gaining in popularity.
But Papacek says we’re still about 10 years behind Europe in embracing IPM.
“We now service multiple industries – the animal industry, horticulture and agriculture,” he says.
“I would say the consumer is awakening and there is a move for less pesticides to be used in food production.
“This is happening quite rapidly in Europe and I believe that in Australia sooner or later the supermarkets are going to expect growers to produce food with less pesticides.
“We know there are some issues with pesticide use, including insects developing resistance to pesticides, as well as food safety and environmental concerns.”
But don’t assume Papacek is anti pesticide, he believe they have an important role in a holistic farming system.
“They are a valuable tool in modern agriculture, but I do believe they are overused and misused,” he says.
“There’s a strong parallel between the use of pesticide in agriculture and the use of medicines for man. I first became very interested in IPM because it’s about producing food with a holistic approach. The challenge is to try and produce a good quality crop with less dependence on pesticides.”

Farmers like Victoria’s Paul Gazzola use good bugs to control the bad bugs. Paul is involved in a new advertising campaign promoting the benefits of beneficials.

Papacek started Bugs for Bugs about 30 years ago to service the local citrus industry. Since then his range of beneficials has grown into a menu of bugs to fight everything from fruit fly to moths, caterpillars, thrips and more recently flies in feedlots, dairies and chicken farms.
Papacek’s not keen on sci-fi films but does admit there’s something a bit ‘horror movie’ in what he does.
“It is sci-fi at a microscopic level,” he says.
“For instance some of our very tiny wasps have a powerful needle which they use to inject their eggs inside a mealy bug. That mealy bug sits there happily sucking on fruit or a leaf and this egg is ticking away like a time bomb. It hatches and the grub starts to feed on the mealy bug from within.
“Eventually the mealy bug is completely consumed and transformed into another wasp that can continue the cycle. It’s like something out of Alien.”

Read on to discover how Dan breeds his bugs.

13Aug

Dennis Howe

Prime Time TV is not the natural habitat for most farmers but Queensland banana farmer Dennis Howe says if it means helping to sell more fresh Australian-grown food he’ll do it.

That’s why he agreed to feature in a new farmer-led advertising campaign by Woolworths.

Dennis has been farming bananas at Walkamin since 1996. He grew up in the area and was born into farming.

His parents encouraged him to leave the farm and study at university, which he did, gaining an engineering. But when his father fell ill he returned him and now runs the farm with his two sisters.

Howe Farming is a major banana supplier to both chain stores and Dennis estimates they produce about 100million individual bananas each year.

The Howes farm about 1416ha of land on the Atherton Tableland and as well as Cavendish bananas, they also grow peanuts, coffee and avocados.

Dennis is a reluctant TV star but says he’s comfortable with the end product because it is a true representation of how his farm runs.

“Apart from me being in the ad I think they’ve done a blooming good job,” he says .

“They’ve captured the beauty of the scenery and it’s very realistic. The only thing they asked us to change was the colour of our shirts, otherwise it’s true to how we grow and pick bananas. At the end of the day if we can help them sell more bananas then it’s in our interest.”

Australians love bananas and eat about 14kg of bananas each every year.

The farmer-focused ads from Woolworths were released in conjunction with new research, commissioned by the chainstore, which reveals Australians are increasingly interested in knowing where their food comes from and who grows it.

 

Read the full media release

Key findings from the study reveal that in 2034:

23Jul

carro-de-la-compraDo you ever line up at the supermarket checkout and have a sticky beak at what other people are buying?

I do. All the time.

I also loiter around the fruit and vegetable section, just observing how people go about choosing what they’ll buy. Call it a farmer’s wife occupational hazard.

What often irks me is how much processed, high-sugar, pre-packaged, ‘convenience’ foods make it into the trolley, at the expense of fresh fruit and vegetables. What really riles me is when these same people complain about the high cost of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Are they serious, I wonder as I check out the price of a 24-can slab of Coke, a 12-pack of Vanilla Drumstick ice-creams and the cost of a sugar-laden box of breakfast cereal.

I’ve been grumbling away to myself and my husband for some time now and finally this week decided to put pen to paper (well fingers to keyboard) and write about it … in my weekly column for the Gold Coast Bulletin.

Since the column published in the paper and online I’ve been very happy to hear from loads of people who feel exactly as I do.

One reader wrote to me to say this:

‘We sell products (dairy not fruit) at Farmers Markets all around Brisbane on the weekends, and lately these markets have become nothing more than breakfast clubs, where young families don’t think twice about spending $50 for breakfast, then they say our products should be much cheaper because we don’t have to pay high rents like the shops,  or “why can’t we stay open until 1 or 2 pm so they can come for lunch.” We got up at 1.30am why not stay a little longer !!!!!!

‘Give me strength, that $50 could feed their family for a week with fresh vegetables and fruit and they have just bought the latest fad breakfast while discussing the loss of their family tax benefit B.’

Other readers agreed that if people can afford a regular cup of takeaway coffee then they can also afford to give their kids fresh fruit and vegetables.

I don’t know whey we’re so fixated on the price of fruit and veg when most of us would be hard pressed to price a Mars Bar, a packet of chips or a can of soft drink.

As I say in the column, my weekly budget is not being blown out by the cost of lettuce.

Read my rant here

23Jul

_MG_9914

We’ve just hosted our third Kalfresh Carrot Field Day, an event which started as a bit of experiment to see if carrot eaters were interested in coming to see how the orange veg is grown, picked, washed and packed.

The first year we held the open day, as part of our local Council’s Eat Local Week activities, we were pleasantly surprised by the turnout.

The following year the numbers grew and this year we lost count – but think we welcomed about 600 people through the Kalfresh shed and carrot paddocks.

Kalfresh-Carrot-Field-Day--Jasmine-Melville-11

I’ve been conversing with Pip Courtney, Landline journo and presenter, on Twitter for some time now. I’ve also been ‘gently encouraging’ Pip to do a story on carrots and on how city consumers really are interested in learning about where their food comes from.

Richard, Pip and Rob

So Pip and her crew came to visit Kalfresh for the Carrot Field Day and the story went to air last weekend.

It was awesome and we’ve had stacks of positive feedback, enquiry and interest in everything from carrots to tractors and the mighty Kalfresh trucks.

Alice & Richard pic

My favourite line of the story is the one where Pip says, ‘Richard married well’. I won’t let him forget that in a hurry.

Watch’s Pip’s story now