MADEC Renmark caught up with Craig Best from Pomona Farming who provided a brief update on the business. He also described how MADEC’s Harvest Trail Services office assists with the recruitment of employees at Pomona Farming.
How long have you been at Pomona Farming and how did you get into the horticultural industry?
I grew up into the horticultural industry in the Adelaide Hills, and have been employed as Farm Manager at Pomona Farming since October 2018.
Pomona is located at Overland Corner in the Riverland region of South Australia, 181kms from Adelaide. The farm is 37kms from the town of Berri. The primary industry in the region is agriculture, including nuts, wine grapes, citrus and broadacre crops.
The Overland Corner property completed stage one in 2018 while stage two was finished in 2020. Both stages total 1,248ha of almond trees.
MADEC Harvest Trail Services has assisted us in the recruitment process for a broad range of roles including farm hands, harvest operators, irrigation workers and even operation managers. The key accountabilities for these jobs are really broad include spraying, operational planning, irrigating, budgeting, block clearing, pruning, planting, sweeping, racking, wind rowing and maintenance.
What crops do you grow and do you have any plans to expand or to diversify?
At present we are at full capacity with growing almonds. We always keep our options open and will not rule out extra ventures in the future.
What are the biggest challenges you face at the moment?
The biggest challenges we are facing are the current world market price decrease for almonds, and the availability of suitably priced water.
Water costs in 2020 jumped more than 63% in a 12 month period. State river systems are experiencing increasing difficulty delivering water to meet increased demand from new horticultural development.
Almonds require between 12.5 and 14 megalitres per hectare to produce high yields. They are drought-tolerant, but high yields require considerable water application.
Weaker almond prices and market disruption caused by COVID-19 have required the business to make budget adjustments to ensure we remain profitable.
Do you have any advice for working holiday makers or other workers who would like to try harvest work?
All workers need to be committed and reliable for the duration they have signed on for and for what the job entails. It is hard work, but the Australian way is to ‘give it a real crack’.
Do you have any advice for other growers when it comes to workers?
Have as many workers as possible actively involved in toolbox meetings and encourage their input for any improvements or changes they see within the workplace.
Provide necessary training, whether this is via training courses or on the job.
Always reward good workmanship and treat every worker with respect.