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A Brief Chat

With a Mackay long time sugar cane grower and cattle farmer. Graeme Blackburn talks about his almost pre-ordained family heritage, his ambitions, his thoughts on cutting edge technology and things in general.

Your Cane farm is situated where?

Well, it can be found 23 klms west of Mackay in Central Queensland at Mirani. It is referred to around these parts as ‘The Hollow’. My wife Robyn looks after and travels to another property we have at Nebo where she supervises the management of our cattle breeding program.

OK., how long have you been growing cane?

Actually a lifetime! After finishing High School and now in my early 60’s it’s all I’ve done and all I know. My father and grandfather were cane farmers before me so I have a long family history and association with the industry. In fact I was born only 20 minutes away at a spot called Eaton, so I was born in the district.

Can you share with The Field readers what you goals are for ‘The Hollow’?

As I have three boys my hope is that one day two of them will take over from me here. One of my sons is already helping me on the farm, another is a Civil Engineer and the youngest is learning a trade. If that happens, and two of the boys were involved that would be success rate of 66%. To me that would be pretty good.

What are your thoughts on cane farming at the moment and how do you sustain your profitability?

About 6-7 years ago prices were very low but they have come a long way since then. Currently prices are fairly reasonable. Volume helps! When you combine volume with efficiency and operate economically there is profit to be gained. Technology is also an important factor these days.

How do you view the advances in technology?

I feel if you get the right technology you are on the right track. For instance in the John Deere 7930 and the 4 x 6210R tractors we have they all come GPS ready. They are excellent. With the lead time in purchasing though, you can’t buy it all at once because of the big outlay. And to be honest I believe my boys will benefit from it more than I will. They are so familiar with all kinds of different technology. More so than me! But the technology I have built into the John Deere tractors definitely contributes to my efficiency and allows me greater precision.

Has it made a difference to you having a Vanderfield branch in Mackay?

In my opinion you won’t see a better company here in Mackay than Vanderfield. They are so innovative and progressive! The branch has certainly livened up since they acquired it and the staff are fantastic!

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