Vegie grower hopeful

ALMOST PICKING TIME: Michael Simpson from Simpson Produce at his Ballandean farm with some good-looking tomato plants.
ALMOST PICKING TIME: Michael Simpson from Simpson Produce at his Ballandean farm with some good-looking tomato plants. Kim Micke

WHILE every primary producer has to deal with challenges on a regular basis, Ballandean farmers Michael and Lee-Ann Simpson have been through some tough years.

But this year Mr Simpson, who grows tomatoes on the Granite Belt, is hopeful for a good season.

"As long as the hail stays away,” he said.

"That was the start of our bad run. Four years ago I think it was, we really got smashed.”

Mr Simpson said after having a bad run for three years in a row due to weather conditions and tomato prices, he decided to reduce his producing volumes.

"One year of hail and two years of bad prices so that's three in a row so we cut right back,” he said.

"It's a lot easier now.”

Now growing tomatoes on 23 acres, Mr Simpson said what "killed you most” was still the price and weather.

With no hail in spring, the Simpsons are pleased with the look of their crops.

"The weather is probably slowing them up a little bit but they're not too bad,” MrSimpson said.

"The warmer start (to spring) was all right because the first batch got going fast.”

The recent rain hasn't affected the tomato fruit either and disease levels have been low.

"At the moment rain is not too bad because the tomatoes are still green so it's not going to cause any problem,” Mr Simpson said.

"If you get too much rain when the patch gets a bit older you can get a lot of weather mark but at the moment the tomatoes are all young so the rain doesn't affect them.

"You can also get fungal diseases but it's good at the moment. If you keep your sprays up it's pretty good.”

At Simpson Produce planting gets done every two weeks, ensuring for a harvest season of about five months.

"We start planting mid-September through to Christmas time and then start harvest a week before Christmas through to 'round about Anzac Day or into May,” Mr Simpson said.

"Every year is different.

"They're 'round about 12weeks from planting 'til harvest but it depends on the weather.

"Depending on the price and the weather, you normally pick for six to eight weeks per patch.”

The Ballandean farmer has been farming all his life, learning everything he needed to now from his dad.

"That's all I've done all my life,” Mr Simpson said.

"Dad was a farmer too. That's where you learn everything from.”

Now Mr Simpson works on the Ballandean property with his son, Damon.

"We'll do it all up until picking and then we get pickers in,” Mr Simpson said.

"We would pick 500-1000 boxes a day with six pickers, sometimes 1200.”

Topics:  hail damage market tomatoes vegetable growers

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