Barry Brooks of Brooks and Sons overlooks his Bungundarra farm.
Barry Brooks of Brooks and Sons overlooks his Bungundarra farm.

Ravaging fire, hail and COVID-19 all in 1 year for grower

IT HAS been just over a year since a devastating bushfire ravaged the Brooks’ farm at Bungundarra and since then the family has been forced to deal with another weather event – a hailstorm, as well as COVID-19.

Speaking to The Morning Bulletin at his Capricorn Coast property, owner Barry ‘Brooksy’ Brooks reflected on how things are going now.

Pineapples close to being picked.
Pineapples close to being picked.

The Cobraball fires in November 2019 resulted in them losing crops, sheds and machinery, with a damage bill in the thousands.

They have managed to replace a lot of the equipment after what has been a long process.

The Brooks family lost a huge crop of pineapples in the Cobraball fires in November 2019.
The Brooks family lost a huge crop of pineapples in the Cobraball fires in November 2019.

As they worked to recover, they also copped a hit from the April hailstorm.

The crops sustained some mutilation with pieces of hail taking chunks out of pineapples and wrecking the plants.

Pineapple fields at the Bungundarra farm.
Pineapple fields at the Bungundarra farm.

Along with this, the COVID-19 global pandemic hit and affected where the pineapples were being sent.

The Brooks’ grow a range of pineapples which are targeted for sale to the cruise ship industry.

This was a particularly market and they had to find new clients to send their product to.

There was also a lack of demand from capital city clients as many cafes were forced to close.

Despite all of this, things are starting to look up for the end of 2020.

The fire on the horizon of the property.
The fire on the horizon of the property.

“Our planting is now good or better than it was before the fire,” Brooksy said.

“Every year is tough and every year has different challenges, this year the challenges have just been different.

“We try our best to work with the weather, sometimes it is a bit difficult and we have to work with markets and try to overcome obstacles put in our way, either weather or man-made.”

Machinery and sheds were destroyed in the fires.
Machinery and sheds were destroyed in the fires.
A new shed has been installed to replace one which burnt down in the November 2019 fires.
A new shed has been installed to replace one which burnt down in the November 2019 fires.

Pineapples are deep in the Brooks family’s blood, dating back to 1924 and since 1957 at the Bungundarra farm.

Brooksy now runs the farm with his two sons, Ryan and Jake.

He commented on the lack of farms there are in the region now compared to years gone by.

A shed was once here before it was ruined in the fire. The trees were also damaged as can be seen by the black trunks and branches.
A shed was once here before it was ruined in the fire. The trees were also damaged as can be seen by the black trunks and branches.

He said the greatest problem in Australia was the lack of farmers and that everything was imported from Indonesia and Philippines.

“We just can’t compete,” he said.

“This isn’t for the best, we are not getting better quality.

“Everything has been in storage, it has been picked to last longer.

“The problem now is fresh food is regarded as a commodity.”

Brooksy’s life motto is “food is your medicine”.

Brooksy cuts a fresh pineapple picked from the field.
Brooksy cuts a fresh pineapple picked from the field.

“The best way to good health is eating fresh food,” he said.

“On our farm I try to implement a method of ‘if you wouldn’t eat it, don’t expect someone else to eat it’.”

Pineapples have also been in the headlines due to Chris ‘Pineapple’ Hooper’s rise to fame across Australia for being Rockhampton’s ‘accidental mayor’.

Harvest time at the Bungundarra farm.
Harvest time at the Bungundarra farm.

Brooksy had a laugh about the topic.

“The old saying of any publicity is good publicity,” Brooksy said.

“I don’t feel it’s done any harm, it’s possibility stimulated (the industry) a little bit more.

“It’s brought pineapple a bit more to people’s lips and they are talking about it more.”



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