CQ farmer on why he's Australia's leading pineapple pro
IF YOU'RE fond of Hawaiian pizza or a tropical smoothie, you may have one man to thank - second generation Yeppoon pineapple farmer, Nathan Stevens.
Mr Stevens, who works at Lake Mary Pines pineapple farm, was awarded the Rudy Wassman Award for being a pro-active and future leader in the Australian pineapple industry.
"I was pretty chuffed and honoured actually. It's a pretty big deal,” Mr Stevens said.
"Rudy Wassman was renowned for being one of the best pineapple horticulturists in the world.
"He was bought into Australia from Hawaii many years ago to help the Australian growers.
"He put a lot of his knowledge, skills and techniques into the industry and helped growers go in the right direction.”
Despite acknowledging the significance of his award, Mr Stevens was modest about being considered one of the best within the industry.
"We just try and do a good job because it benefits us financially and we have pride in the quality of the produce we're putting out on the market,” he said.
"We take a lot of pride in fine-tuning and the attention to details in sections of the business because it makes it profitable and allows us to put out the best quality product to the market that we can.
"I don't believe we do anything special compared to other growers.
"We've all got our own things that make us a bit different, but again that's the day to day practise, just fine tuning it and making it better.”
The family-run business supplies the fruit to many markets, including Woolworths, Coles and Aldi.
Lake Mary Pines also supplied to Golden Circle but is focusing on transitioning more towards producing fresh fruit for the Australian market.
"That's been our sole focus for the last 10 years and going forward,” he said.
"We market all our fruit through Tropical Pines, which we are also a significant share holder in.
"Tropical Pines is the biggest packager and best marketers of pineapples in Australia.”
What sets Mr Stevens' farm apart is the focus on providing sweet fruit all year round.
He said developing more fresh varieties enabled people to eat quality good-eating pineapples 12 months a year.
"In winter it's a bit acidic, and has a sour taste. Whereas now the variety enables us to grow fresh pineapple any time of the year,” he said.
Mr Stevens joined the business 20 year ago after a short stint at university, where he realised he felt more at home on the farm.
He then went to his parents', Gail and Colin's, farm and never looked back.
"At that point in time they were a fairly small operation and now we plant about 1.5million plants a year and harvest 2.5million pieces of fruit,” he said.
Mr Stevens still works with his parents on the farm - his mother takes care of the administration side of things and his father still helps out on the farm.
"(As a leader), people sort of look at what you're doing and follow in your footsteps and take on some of the practise you use to better themselves,” he said.
"But when me and the boys are talking pineapples at the end of the day, we do so in the back of the ute, with a cold beer and a bit of chalk. That fixes everything.”