Passion turns to Gold

Dan and Alice Rye of Evaldar with children Evelyn, Finlay, and Hudson. Pictures Contributed.

A Central Queensland couple, Dan and Alice Rye of Evaldar, discovered their passion for mango farming after changing from their mining and media careers and have been named Honey Gold Grower of the Year by leading producer Pinata Farms.

Announced at the Pinata Farms’ annual Honey Gold Congress, more than 45 growers and families congregated in Cairns to share the past season’s outcome and to prepare for the next one.

Mr Ryes said it was fantastic to be recognised but they did it because they loved it.

“Our reward is getting good quality mangoes off the trees and into the market,“ he said.

“We are also proud to be part of a group which achieved the highest year as a group for quality.“

Neither Dan nor Alice had experience in horticulture, so when they first bought the 30-hectare property at Alton Downs, they joined a network of third-party growers producing the premium Honey Gold mango variety.

Evaldar has 9000 Honey Gold trees and produced 33,000 trays last season, which has decreased by 22 per cent in the previous season.

The property includes the original tree that produced the first Honey Gold, which is a natural cross between a Kensington Pride and a Kensington Pride off-type.

Mr Rye said it had been a huge learning curve to become growers but they had no regrets.

“We liked the idea of farming, and the mango industry was certainly an industry that appealed to us,“ he said.

“Other local Honey Gold growers and those in the extended Piñata network have generously shared their knowledge of growing mangoes and the nuances of growing the Honey Gold variety, in particular.

“Above all, the constant advice we received was to aim for quality over quantity and we continue to focus on that, from the nutrition program to pest and disease management.“

Since acquiring the property, the Ryes have experienced floods and drought, however, not to the extent their colleagues in the Mareeba region faced last season.

The Far North Queensland region had more than its average annual rainfall of 900mm between mid-December and mid-January, right at harvest time.

“Fortunately, last season was a lot drier through winter and spring and that contributed to getting a consistent flowering and fruit set,” Mr Rye said.

“The lack of rain and fewer spring storms reduced disease pressure.

“Our season which typically runs for about three weeks was a week or two ahead of our usual window, but otherwise, our season was stable.“

Mr Rye attributed the farm’s forecasting accuracy to having a more consistent flowering than other regions and the practice of taking a high number of samples in the lead-up to the Christmas-New Year harvest.

Piñata Farms managing director Gavin Scurr said Evaldar received the award for excellent communication before and during the season, as well as accurate forecasting, which was critical to managing supply to the market.

“Many variables can affect forecasting ranging from late flowering to weather events, and it can change throughout the season, right up to harvest,“ he said.

“Our growers in five states do a great job in managing these variables such as the extreme flooding impacts felt by our North Queensland growers last season.“

Piñata Farms produces Honey Golds at its own farms in Darwin, Katherine and Mataranka in the Northern Territory in November-December.

Third-party growers produce mangoes in the Northern Territory, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia.

Honey Golds are available at leading supermarkets nationally from November to March.