Young growers our strength says Leahy

Young growers want to be part of the banana industry and are the industry’s strength, according to the recipient of the industry’s highest honour.

Tully grower Patrick Leahy received a Life Membership of the Australian Banana Growers’ Council (ABGC) at the industry’s Awards Of Honour held at the Banana Industry Ball as part of the industry Congress in June.
“The banana industry is one that is not without its challenges but if it was an easy industry to be in it’d be bloody boring,” Mr Leahy said. “There’s never a dull moment in bananas.”
Mr Leahy said many horticulture industries were full of “grey heads” but bananas was different.
“The really good thing for our industry is it’s full of young growers, young people that are willing to have a go because it’s such a great industry. I think that’s the strength of our industry, we’ve got family members, young guys coming through that want to take the job, they want to be part of the business, they want to be part of our industry and I think that needs to be nurtured.”
Despite the industry’s challenge Mr
Leahy said: “I really think we’re in a
really good place even though it doesn’t seem like it at the moment. This is a great industry.”
Mr Leahy is a former ABGC Chairman whose work on industry issues includes the banana imports battle, the eradication of black Sigatoka and the introduction of the banana industry levy.
Awards Of Honour were bestowed on Tully grower Cameron MacKay, senior banana scientist Stewart Lindsay and consultant David Peasley.
The awards night also formally marked the start of a new phase for the industry’s Mort Johnston Professional Development Scholarship, presented to agronomist Liam Riedy.
In accepting his Award of Honour for his work as a former ABGC Chairman and industry representative, Cameron MacKay said there was great support from within the industry.
“What makes this industry such a good industry is that we all back each other,” he said.
Cameron also thanked another former ABGC Chairman for encouraging him to take on the role.“I have to thank Len Collins also who tapped me on the shoulder about 15 years ago and said “have a dig” so thanks Len, I had a bit of a dig and I enjoyed every minute of it.”
Principal Development Horticulturist with the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Stewart Lindsay received an award for his banana research extension work.
“I never set out to work in bananas, I grew up on a
banana farm and I thought the best thing I could do was get as far away from them as I could,” Stewart said.
Stewart moved to North Queensland 25 years ago to work in banana research. “It’s by far the best thing that I’ve done in my life and I’ve got to say this is one of the most terrific industries to work in.”
Banana scientist Mike Smith accepted an award on behalf of recipient David Peasley, of Farrants Hill in northern NSW, is a consultant who has worked on banana industry projects and issues over the past 30 years, including the imports battle.
“I’ve worked with David for some 25 years now and I can honestly say that he is really absolutely passionate about this industry and I think he’s one of this industry’s strongest advocates,” Mike said.
“He’s dedicated a big part of his life to seeing that the banana industry is protected from threats both within and without.
“I’ve seen him burning the candle at both ends, really fighting for this industry very hard with the imports (issue). Even today he’s very passionate about his ongoing with fighting our old enemy Bunchy Top.”
Liam Riedy, of Wongaling Beach in North Queensland, received the Mort Johnston scholarship for his 2014 research into the use and efficacy of biological fungicides for bananas.
The scholarship has funded research projects for the past six years but will in future be directed to assist undergraduate students and encourage them to consider a career in banana research.
“I’d like to thank the whole of the Australian banana industry to give me the chance to research and travel,” Liam said of his project which included research conducted in the United States