Introducing Ridley Bell of Mountain Blue Orchards in Lismore, NSW. His story is number 44 in my quest to feature a farmer a week to celebrate The Australian Year of the Farmer
Summary of Family and Farm:
Mountain Blue Orchard’s mission is to produce quality and flavoursome blueberries from vigorous, high yielding plants that extend the average season. We provide our premium blueberry plants to retailers, commercial fruit growers and nurseries in both the domestic and international market.
Mountain Blue Orchards is committed to the development of the blueberry industry and allocates a large extent of resources to research and development in terms of breeding and technology.
The family run farm is operated in an environmentally responsible manner while maintaining excellence in our produce. Mountain Blue Orchards is owned and operated by the Bell family.
Ridley Bell is considered a world leading expert and has been actively involved in the development of the Australian blueberry industry since its humble beginnings in 1975. His work has involved the development of Northern Highbush varieties in Victoria, including many of the varieties that are grown all over the world today. Ridley was named NSW Farmer of the Year in 2010.
Ridley and his wife Mieke are ably assisted by their four children in various activities on the farm. Natalie runs Sales and Marketing as well as taking on many other management duties around the farm. Andrew is a legal consultant for the business and is director and shareholder in African Blue S.L. in Morocco where they are partners in a 115 hectare Blueberry operation with Costa Exchange, Total Foods and Agrogailes. Terry is working as one of the Harvest Managers on the Wollongbar farm and Georgina is involved with the packing shed operations.
What is the best lifestyle factor you enjoy as a farmer?
Working on the farm and contributing to the Australian blueberry industry is quite satisfying. The best lifestyle factor in farming would have to be working with nature and seeing the plants flourish from seedlings through to high yielding bushes due to all the maintenance and care that has been contributed by our enthusiastic farm employees.
Short Term and Long Term Challenges:
Market penetration, water and weather conditions are all challenges that affect the farm. The standards and permits regarding chemicals and export are changing constantly which can make it quite difficult to penetrate both the domestic and international market. Water issues are on-going and efficient methods of irrigation need to be researched due to the scarcity of fresh water in Australia. The weather is an unpredictable factor that affects the farm heavily from frost and hail damaging the fruit and excessive rainfall causing the plants problems with leaf diseases.
What do I wish non-farmers and the Australian Government understood about farming?
Farming can be a very fickle industry which is not always easy to make money in yet is very important to the Australian economy. As much of the success comes from factors outside a farmer’s control such as the weather or climate, it is vital to research and prepare for all controllable factors to ensure the farm has the greatest chance of success. To be part of the growing produce industry in Australia is a great thing and there is a tremendous level of satisfaction in seeing our own produce on the shelves of shops and supermarkets. Farming is important to the nation’s food security; we would encourage the Australian community to buy our own home grown produce and try to discourage people from buying exports.
Message for billboard:
Support Aussie Produce… Buy Australian!!!
Mountain Blue Farms Pty Ltd
Mountain Blue has plantings of both Southern Highbush and Rabbiteye blueberry varieties available for purchase for retail and commercial growers. The fruit picked at Mountain Blue is sold under the name Mountain Blue Orchards and River Run, and can be found in supermarkets and green grocer stores.