Farmer rating (pending assessment by the PFA): B
Supplying Food Connect since: 2009
Farm visited by Food Connect: No
Josie and Harry grow persimmons on their four acre block at Pie Creek, Gympie. The idea of growing persimmons came back in the 1970s when Josie was first introduced to them when working in Japan, where they are a popular fruit. In 1999 Josie and Harry took up farming as a retirement project and planted 450 Fuyu seedless non-astringent persimmon trees.
Prior to the non-astringent persimmon varieties being introduced into Australia, the astringent variety was a common backyard tree, coming from seeds brought by the Chinese gold diggers at the time of the gold rushes in the 1800s. Astringent persimmons contain very high levels of soluble tannins and are unpalatable if eaten before softening (they leave an unpleasant dry taste in the mouth). Probably for this reason, persimmons once had an unpopular reputation in Australia. Planting of non-astringent persimmons started here around the late 1980s and has steadily increased. The new varieties (mainly Fuyu and Jiro) can be eaten when firm – Jiro persimmons appear earlier in the season and have a distinct square shape. The Fuyu variety appears around late March in this area, and is rounder in shape with a lovely sweet taste.
At Josie and Harry’s farm, the use of chemicals is avoided as much as possible. The trees are espaliered to trellises and kept at approx two metres high, which means that they can be fully covered with a small size mesh net to keep out fruit bats, birds (mainly lorikeets) and a variety of other pests such as a fruit spotting moth and grasshoppers. Nutri-Tech Solutions are used for advice and fertiliser inputs, which gives a nutrient dense fruit without the use of harmful chemicals. To control weeds, Harry uses a machine a little like a flame thrower, which burns off all the weeds and eliminates the need for spraying. That only leaves the hard-to-control fruit fly to be dealt with – to keep these at bay, Harry soaks pieces of material with a poison and hangs these from the fences around the paddock. When the fruit fly larvae hatches, they are attracted to the material on the fences, ingest the poison and are killed, breaking the reproduction cycle. In this way, these chemicals are kept well away from the fruit and trees.
Josie and Harry are keen conservationists, and they welcome wildlife on the farm. They are lucky enough to have a platypus family in Pie Creek, which forms the back boundary of the property. They are also a Land Care member, and have been part of the Mary River Water Watch group doing monthly water samples. Their youngest daughter Kate Noble wrote the Australian Conservation Society’s submission to the Australian Government Senate Inquiry into the Mary River Traveston Dam. To relax, they enjoy going fishing in the Great Sandy Strait.