Learning on the job at Boombera Park

On International Women’s Day, we acknowledge and celebrate the enormous contribution women make to the Australian macadamia industry. 

Farm: Boombera Park Macadamias

Owner: Arrow Funds Management Ltd

Management: Liz Childs and Alyssa Gooley

Location: Lawrence, Northern Rivers NSW

Size: 250,000 trees on 800 ha

Average age and spacing: Up to 2 years, 9 x 3.5 m

Varieties: 70% A203; rest 344, 741 and 849

Soils: mostly clay, sandy loam and sand


Liz Childs and Alyssa Gooley are new to the macadamia industry but that hasn’t stopped them from taking the reins of the newly established Boombera Park Macadamias at Lawrence on the Northern Rivers of NSW.

The plantation’s 250,000 trees are still immature, with the oldest only two years old, and the management challenges that come with this are much different to those of an established orchard. Farm Operations Manager, Liz Childs, who has only been in the macadamia industry for four months, says she is riding a steep learning curve in running one of the largest operations in the area with such young trees.

Liz was approached by a recruitment company to apply for the role at Boombera Park, so decided to throw her hat into the ring.

She certainly has the qualifications and experience, having been involved in farm management for the last 15 years, mainly in the citrus, blueberry, grape and avocado industries in north Queensland. Her farm experience began when she started work as a cleaner/gardener on a citrus farm where, through determination and a willingness to take on any job, she was soon running the place. 

“I believe this has given me good grounding in my management role as I can respect everyone on the farm, having done the role they are now doing,” she said.

This experience has been backed up by “a lot of studying for eight years”, something that proved a challenge during harvest, when she was also working 80 hours a week.

Orchard enters next stage

As the project to establish Boombera Park has come to an end, Liz has taken over the project manager’s role to run the operational side where she is responsible for all the orchard activities, agronomy, irrigation and nut handling.

A priority for Liz is to have a cohesive team working on the farm. She has seven females working in management, in the field and in casual positions, and the one thing they have in common is that they are all “great to work with”.

This is the biggest farm Liz has ever worked on, and she has identified several challenges ahead.

“One of these is the weather as I am not used to an area with so much rainfall which can lead to loss of production,” she said.

Another challenge made more difficult because of the scale of the Boombera Park operation, will be managing pests and diseases.

“Getting around the farm to spray will be more difficult than on a smaller farm. Going forward we will buy more equipment,” she said.

Investing in sustainable practices

The farm is also very invested in sustainable practices based on strong integrated pest management principles which means their aim is to minimise the use of chemical crop protection. They are also focusing on strategies such as only slashing every second row to provide a habitat of natural grasses and flowers to protect good predators.

Regeneration and conservation activities are where Technical Officer Alyssa Gooley steps in. Alyssa has been in the macadamia industry for a year and comes with a certificate in conservation and land management and a bachelor of science.

She came to Boombera Park to do some field crew work and said her position evolved from there. Currently she is managing an on-farm regeneration project and trials on inter-row and headland cover crops.

“I also manage the native bees on the property. Research has shown they are the most efficient pollinators of macadamias as they favour the flowers,” she said.

Information and support available

Both Liz and Alyssa are positive about their experiences and the encouragement they have received for learning more about macadamia growing. They have found that the websites of NSW DPI and AMS to be “excellent sources of information”, especially as they are new to the industry.

While COVID has limited their ability to go to MacGroups, both Liz and Alyssa said they will be going to more. For them, the meetings were a valuable experience, not only for what they learned about macadamia growing, but also for the opportunities they provided to network with others in the industry.

And they are both encouraging about joining the industry.

“For women wanting to join the industry, I would advise them to take my example and give any job a go,” said Liz. “Physically and mentally, you are able to perform the tasks, just improve your knowledge and don’t doubt yourself.”

Alyssa agreed that it was a great industry to be in, not only for the opportunities it offers women, but also for its commitment to sustainability.

“As an environmentalist, I know the macadamia industry does a lot to promote sustainable agriculture.”

Images: (Top) Liz Childs, Boombera Park Farm Operations Manager; (Middle) Alyssa Gooley, Boombera Park Technical Officer; (Below) Boombera Park staff

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This website has been partly funded by Hort Innovation, using the macadamia research and development levy and contributions from the Australian Government.