FOUR trail-blazing farmers from the Mareeba area have been nominated in this year’s Charlie Nastasi Horticultural Farmer of the Year Award.
Held annually by the Mareeba District Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association (MDFVGA), the award aims to continue the legacy of the late Charlie Nastasi by recognising outstanding innovation and exceptional leadership in the horticultural industry across the Atherton Tablelands and Lakeland area.
Matthew Perkes, Elio Quintieri, Sam Collins and Jose Caamano have all been nominated for this year’s Award, each bringing their own unique innovation and leadership to the industry.
A former carpenter, Mr Perkes grows limes and avocados on a 70ha property at Mareeba. He utilises full tissue, soil and moisture testing to produce a superb crop every year, helped by an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program and water-saving mulch practices.
Mr Perkes also volunteers his time as junior president of the Mareeba United Football Club.
Mr Quintieri, a lychee farmer at Paddys Green, manufacturers his own proprietary cherry pickers built on site at his property which have proven to be extremely popular amongst growers.
From a well-known and respected farming family, Mr Quintieri has a long involvement in farming, manufacturing and equipment.
Mr Collins is an award-winning Calypso and Honey Gold mango grower, who also grows avocados and lychees on his three Dimbulah properties. He has been proactive in developing water conservation methods on his farms, as well as embracing the latest farming technologies to improve efficiency in all areas of his business.
Mr Collins is also actively involved in the local community, helping to tackle various agricultural issues affecting farmers in the region.
Mr Caamano is a Mareeba lime, pomelo and custard apple grower who has been manufacturing his own fertiliser blends that utilise a low amount of chemicals, improving overall sustainability. Water efficiency has also been improved through the use of “Enviroscans” on his property, probes that measure soil moisture. This enables Mr Caamano to adjust his irrigation schedule literally from the palm of his hand using a smartphone or tablet.
He has also been involved with local citrus farming committees in the past to highlight and tackle issues facing growers in the region.
The Award’s judging panel met last Friday to discuss the nominees, who are being judged on the two categories of leadership and innovation.
There were robust discussions amongst the judges as they discussed the merits of each nominee and their contribution to local agriculture.
The panel comprises Joe Moro (MDFVGA president), Gerard Kath (MDFVGA treasurer), Thomas Mugford (Landmark Mareeba/Tolga branch manager) and Wayne McKeich (Visy Mareeba sales manager).
Mr Moro said the high calibre of this year’s nominees for the award would make it difficult to pick a winner.
“Each nominee brings something unique to the local horticultural industry, and should be congratulated for leading the way in their respective areas,” he said.
“We’ve had some outstanding nominees in the past and this year will be no different.”
Mr Moro said horticultural innovation was crucial to driving the industry forward in the 21st century.
“In order to remain competitive, our industry must be able to overcome any future challenges,” he said.
“The way we do this is by encouraging local farmers to embrace technologies that improve efficiency, increase yield and are sustainable for decades to come.”