Farmers used to a battle
FROM prolonged drought to the flooding rains which inundated the Lockyer Valley earlier this year, the Linnans are used to battling the elements.
When Lake Clarendon vegetable grower Tim Linnan’s family business, Maragi Pty Ltd, planted its first crop of Broccolini baby broccoli for Perfection Fresh in 2004, it joined an exclusive network of producers around Australia.
Today, Maragi Pty Ltd sends between 150,000 and 160,000 boxes to market every year.
It is one of 14 producers around Australia contracted to grow the specialty green which was introduced to Australia in 1999.
“We were excited to add Broccolini to our portfolio because the vegetable was still relatively new to the marketplace at the time,” Mr Linnan said.
“We always knew it was a great eating product and it’s been a rewarding experience as a grower to watch consumer interest develop.
“We’ve noticed anyone who loves broccoli usually loves Broccolini twice as much.
“It’s even sweeter, you can eat the entire vegie and it dresses up a plate.”
The Linnans’ Broccolini crop is grown on 60 hectares at Lake Clarendon in the Lockyer Valley between April and December every year.
Mr Linnan said the best decision the business ever made was to install trickle irrigation – a decision forced by years of drought.
“The drought taught farmers many lessons – change the way we use water, or you’re out of business,” he said.
“Fortunately we never completely ran out of water during the drought but we learned to manage it better.
“While some of our soil was washed away in the flood, our bores have a plentiful supply for many years to come and the local creeks, which are now teeming with fish, are still running.”
The Linnans take pride in overseeing every step of the Broccolini crop’s labour-intensive production.
“Growing great-tasting Broccolini is our goal so we like to be hands-on and we’re proud of the quality of our product,” Mr Linnan said.
It takes about 12 weeks to produce a crop of Broccolini from seedling and the crop is laboriously picked and packed by hand with three generations of the family involved in the day-to-day operation, following the tradition started by Tim’s grandfather Thomas, who first settled in the area and split up the land in 1920.
Tim’s parents Tom and Marie established Maragi Pty Ltd in the late 1970s and, together with his brother Bruce, all are equal partners today.
Tim’s wife Chris manages the books and oversees quality assurance while son Tom also works on the farm.
The Linnans also grow leeks, baby leeks, Dutch carrots, purple carrots, grape tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, shallots and mixed baby leaf.
As soon as the Broccolini crop finishes in late December, the Linnans will start making preparations for next season.