Passion, determination and three generations of family guidance matched with succession planning were the ingredients Joe and Monique Moreno needed to turn an unlikely lifestyle into a successful farming business.
Succession planning helping generations go home to the family farm
Having witnessed the challenges of farming growing up on their parents’ tobacco properties, Joe and Monique didn’t envisage their future in farming. It wasn’t until things changed when the planned sale of Monique’s parents’ North Queensland property to international buyers fell through in 2017 did Joe and Monique realise their potential on the family property.
There was an opportunity to use a First Start Loan from QRIDA to purchase 50% of the property with the plan to buy out the entire property in the next 15 years which, combined with generations of family history in the North Queensland horticulture industry, allowed Joe and Monique to go home to the farm.
“I was never going to marry a farmer or live on a farm,” Monique said.
“My parents were ready to retire, and the opportunity presented itself for Joe and I to be able to come onto the farm.”
Monique is third generation on property – her grandparents started a tobacco farm before her parents took over the farm and diversified into mango, avocado and lime production when the tobacco industry folded.
Fast forward 30 years and the couple are partnering with Monique’s parents to own and run Paradise Orchards, a successful mango and avocado farm on 52 hectares at Arriga, west of the North Queensland tablelands town of Mareeba.
Seeing the benefit of becoming part owners of Paradise Orchards and the lifestyle opportunities it could offer their family, Joe and Monique began looking into their succession planning options with assistance from QRIDA Far North Regional Area Manager, Sam Spina.
“We started looking into succession planning through our accountant and there wasn’t a lot of info out there at the time that we could find,” Joe said.
“It was four years ago when we first met Sam and we enquired about being able to take over the farm and succession planning.
“Since then, Sam helped us to move forward and actually make it a reality. It was just one of those coincidences that we just happened to be at the right place at the right time and we just haven’t looked back. It’s been the best thing we did.”
Joe says the succession planning process, which involves transfer of important family knowledge and experience about the business, has been paramount to their success.
“To me succession planning is the way to go. You’ve got your family members, all their knowledge, all the experiences and you know the area, you know the farm, you know the place, you know where the problems are, in the fields or with pipes or with sheds,” he said.
“Taking over a family farm, you get that knowledge that you don’t have – you just ask the questions and they’re there to help. It’s not like going in blind. Here it’s like we have a manual on previous years, on previous episodes. It’s a great help.
“They’ve been through the highs and lows, you can’t buy that – that’s knowledge of how to get out of trouble, how to survive issues that have happened with weather and climates. That’s information that you can’t buy, it’s worth its weight in gold.”
Joe and Monique were able to work through the succession process to purchase a 50 per cent share of Paradise Orchards with the help of a QRIDA First Start Loan.
“The application process was very straightforward, very streamlined. Sam helped us through the process. We had a few challenges along the way but Sam helped us overcome that and the outcome was exactly what we wanted,” Monique said.
“Each year my parents spend less and less time here and give us more opportunity to grow. Our hope is to be full owners of the property so they can retire and holiday.”
Joe said working with QRIDA had been beneficial for all involved.
“I’d definitely tell anyone to give QRIDA a go. You’d be very surprised on the help they’d be able to give you,” he said.
First Start Loans of up to $2 million are available to help producers enter into primary production. Eligible activities under the loan include purchasing land, buying into the family farm or developing existing operations to achieve viability.