Equipment upgrades, farm diversification and QRIDA Sustainability Loan perfect recipe for growers’ success
CC and Greg Petersen
Think of a quirky fruit and vegetable combination – perhaps rosella and ginger, green papaya and pickles, or even pineapple and hot chilli – and Greg and CC Petersen have likely grown, mixed and made it into a jam, syrup or sauce.
At their property in Woolooga, 45 kilometers north-west of Gympie, the husband-and-wife producers operate a paddock-to-plate model enterprise, with Greg growing the produce and CC featuring it as the main ingredient in food products they sell.
The Petersens recently used a Sustainability Loan from the Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority (QRIDA) to build a commercial kitchen on additional property and upgrade their tractor. Now, with more efficient land-preparation and a range of more than 100 fruit and vegetable condiments, the couple’s only limit is their imagination.
“The build of our new kitchen has been life-changing for us because over a year ago we were operating out of a 3 x 3 metre kitchen and now the whole building is 20 x 15.5 metres, so we are able to create more products more efficiently and open up more avenues to value-add into our farming business,” CC said.
“I thought I had passion before but the fire in the belly is actually hotter than ever because I have a kitchen big enough for me to do a dance and be creative, and I also enjoy what I do.”
QRIDA Regional Area Manager for Burnett, Cindy Godden, explained the expansion of the Petersens’ farm business also means there’s enough work for them to employ people all-year-round rather than just seasonally.
“It gives the Petersens the benefit of cross-training their employees, so they may be starting out the day early on the farm with Greg and then transitioning to the kitchen with CC through the heat of the day,” Cindy said.
Having previously been impacted by the financial devastation of floods and droughts, CC said it was a relief to have the sale of their food products as an additional income stream for when the uncertain times come.
“Farming is very tough especially when you have to deal with things like floods, droughts and hailstorms because severe weather is uncontrollable. But whatever I do under my kitchen roof is controllable, so we can always knuckle down and make more jams,” CC said.
“For products that we normally send to market, if they’ve got a little bit of a kink or a spec on it normally you can’t sell it, so what we’ve also been doing is cutting the bad part of the imperfect fruit and either cooking or freezing it for later.”
The Petersens’ new, air-conditioned tractor is also keeping Greg cool in the warm climate and cutting his hours of farm labour.
“It’s good having a new tractor because you can work the farm more efficiently and the tractor has a four-in-one bucket which I can use to level ground, push out old rosellas, and pick up dirt,” Greg said.
Cindy helped the Petersens with their Sustainability Loan application to make their dream a reality.
“I first met with Greg and CC in 2018 and we started off like most of our clients around the kitchen table and we had discussions about financial information and CC also showed me her shed design,” Cindy said.
CC said Cindy’s agricultural knowledge and engagement throughout the process made all the difference.
“Cindy really helped give us the best chance possible to apply for the Sustainability Loan with QRIDA so that’s a lot of trust there both ways,” CC said.
“Cindy understands what we are trying to achieve, and she was able to perhaps give us some guidance of ‘where do you want to take this business, have you looked at this’ and actually gave us an idea of what we need to prepare.”
The Petersens’ farm upgrades are not only increasing their business’ long-term sustainability and profitability, but also enabling the husband-and-wife duo to live out their passion project.
“Greg loves farming and I love cooking so what a better way to live, the fact we live out on this beautiful little piece of dirt, but we also get to enjoy each other’s company as well,” CC said.
QRIDA’s Sustainability Loans of up to $1.3 million can help primary production businesses expand and add value to their enterprise.
To find out how a Sustainability Loan could help develop your primary production business, visit QRIDA’s Sustainability Loan page.