On International Women’s Day, we acknowledge and celebrate the enormous contribution women make to the Australian macadamia industry.
Farm: SuBry Farm
Owner: Suzanne and Bryce Fleming
Location: Bundaberg Queensland
Size: 125 ha
Average age and spacing: 8 x 4 m and 8 x 5 m
Varieties: Rootstock Beaumont and H2 (50/50), 741, 816, Daddow, A203, MCT1, A16
Soils: Red soil and in the lower areas, brown
Farming in the macadamia industry is a family affair for Suzanne and Bryce Fleming, who live on SuBry Farms in Bundaberg. They also own two other farms in the same area - Branching Out Farm, which their son and daughter-in-law help manage, and Wawoon.
The Flemings have been in the macadamia industry for eight years. They also own a steel fabrication business, which they established some time before becoming involved with macadamias, and it is a significant business that has rigging teams travelling throughout Queensland and northern NSW completing projects.
After moving to a beachside unit, it didn’t take long for a feeling of claustrophobia and hankering for a yard to motivate their interest in buying a farm. Importantly, included in the specifications was that whatever they bought had to be close to town and to the beach.
“In 2010, we found a property that had a nice rise and fall on it and we decided we’d build here,” said Suzanne.
Opting for macadamias
Suzanne said they wanted to do something with the land but didn’t want to get into small crops.
“We looked at mangoes and avocados, but it was Chris Searle who told us about macadamia nuts, and it went from there,” she said.
“He took us all around different farms and showed us how they were set up.”
The decision to go with macadamias has involved a steep learning curve for them both. While Suzanne had some familiarity with agriculture, having grown up on a cane farm, she found that she had lots to learn about soils, varieties of nuts and how to manage a successful macadamia farm.
“An agronomist would come and check our farm for us, and taught us how to manage the bad bugs and how to use the wasps in the orchard,” she said.
Suzanne said while it was all very challenging, it was also easy due to the support provided by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and the macadamia community, which she has found to be “incredible”.
“They are so friendly and only to happy to help, giving advice and tips and new ideas.”
Focus on sustainability
Different trials on the farm have shown the trees are more resilient in the red soil rather than the brown, and Suzanne said Bryce is looking at implementing more sustainable practices such as reducing the use of fertiliser and replacing it with compost.
“He is currently making big mounds of compost in our horse yard,” she laughed.
The view from the Fleming house is one of Suzanne’s favourite parts of macadamia farming.
“We have a back and front deck and I can look out at the trees and they are beautiful. They are always green and when they flower that fragrance is beautiful,” she said.
Suzanne attends plenty of field days to keep up on her knowledge in the industry. And she isn’t afraid of asking questions to find out more.
“We’ve been going to the AMS conferences and read the magazine to see what’s happening. We also go to MacGroups as you always pick up something that’s new,” she said.
Suzanne does a lot of the machinery work on the farm and encourages other women to get involved.
“Sometimes we are happy to be in admin and do all the paperwork and not be out on the farm,” she said.
Her advice is to pursue what you are interested in on the farm.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for advice. Go for it and enjoy the journey,” she said.
This website has been partly funded by Hort Innovation, using the macadamia research and development levy and contributions from the Australian Government.