Once very familiar with broad acre and cotton farming in dry climatic conditions near Dalby, Michael McMahon and his family relocated to a citrus orchard in central Queensland. There they were confronted with a whole different scenario. Moving to central Queensland 10 years ago they purchased ‘Abbotsleigh Citrus’ on the Burnett River at Wallaville, close to Gin Gin and 50 kms west of Bundaberg. Admitting to “little to no knowledge of the horticulture industry and the dilemmas of growing citrus”!
However Michael believed it to be good land and the rainfall plentiful. A couple of floods later and experiencing mostly high humidity which spoils the citrus, they are adjusting to the challenges.
Several John Deere tractors which had done a lot of hours came with ‘Abbotsleigh’. But Michael related, “They were still good tractors. In the intervening 10 years we have bought and used other brands but have reverted back to the John Deere’s buying 3 x 6330’s towards the latter part of 2013”.
This 100% fully Australian family owned business concentrates on growing Eureka lemons and three different types of mandarins – Imperial, Hickson and Honey Murcotts. The orchard has approximately 60,000 trees, grown on 180 hectares of land. Currently a new variety of blueberry is being trialled to add to their mix. Viewing their decision as an opportunity which has the potential to expand their business into a totally new market!
Comfortable and confident in the sales and after sales service ability of the Vanderfield Bundaberg branch offer, Michael says, “It’s about reliability! And we get that from the dealership here and from John Deere equipment. There seems to be more life in a John Deere and they retain their resale value which is a bonus”.
Michael continued, “Managing a citrus orchard is labour intensive. All the lemons and mandarins are snipped by hand. The trees are pruned by hand and any marked fruit is thinned by hand. It’s a very hands’ on approach literally! Labour is our largest single consideration and challenge. Working the year round in the orchard is 12 full time employees while between 40 and 50 staff are employed in the packing shed between February and September.”
Abbotsleigh Citrus is sold in many countries overseas including Indonesia, Thailand, China, the Middle East, Pacific Islands, Singapore, Canada and Hong Kong. In addition it is transported to all major capital cities across Australia.
It would appear that Michael and his family have successfully faced up to all the difficulties that the environment has exposed them to in growing citrus. Adapting to the growing conditions, learning new skills and gaining a refined level of expertise in the process of coping and overcoming any horticultural challenges.
For more information you can go to abbotsleigh.com.au or facebook.com/abbotsleighcitrus
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