NOT AGAIN: Ellen and Justin Fawdon inspect the damage on their Stanthorpe property.
NOT AGAIN: Ellen and Justin Fawdon inspect the damage on their Stanthorpe property. Alex Nolan

Weather hits hard again

FIFTEEN years after having their stonefruit netting and crops destroyed by hail, Justin Fawdon and his family are again counting the cost of another freak weather event.

Taking over the farm in 1997, the Fawdons have experienced scintillating highs and devastating lows on their farm, with this year being one of the lowest.

"We had that really hot October to November period with unprecedented days of 35 degrees in spring," he said.

"Then we had constant wet and cool weather.

"It was some of the worst weather for growing, but we've had a few other bad seasons."

After persistent rain through the Christmas period, Justin estimated he lost approximately 2800 boxes of stonefruit, costing the family $40,000 to $50,000.

"For a small orchid that's a really big loss," he said.

To finish off the horror year for the Fawdons, the wind and rain that ripped through the Granite Belt two weeks ago managed to destroy their nets.

"We must've had a mini-tornado come through and destroy the nets," he said.

"They were oldish anyway, but it's destroyed a whole section. I was hoping to get a few more years out of them. They're too expensive to replace."

To save the farm and his family from financial ruin, Justin decided to plant something he hadn't tried before.

"Putting in a few rows of zucchinis helped us out a little bit," he said.

"I'd read in the literature that zucchinis were quite easy to grow so I thought we'd try it."

Justin says the family will have to sit down in the next year to decide whether farming is something they would continue to do.

"It's a hard decision to make. We've been here for so long and put so much of our young lives in to the farm," he said.

"We might have to get jobs off the farm in winter to see us through.

"Hopefully next year is a good one. Otherwise, we'll have to sit down as a family and decide what we're going to do."

Justin said his brother-in-law had started a mining exploration company and offered him work through the winter.

Justin has experience as a geologist's assistant and his brother-in-law has been nice enough to offer him flexible working conditions.

"He's going to let me do one week on then one week off so I can come back to the farm to do the pruning and spraying," he said.

"There's still a lot to be done. There isn't too much time for relaxation."

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