‘Watermelons: $5’. An old truck with a tray piled with hefty watermelons parked beside the highway between Townsville and Charters Towers stands as a sample of the hundreds of acres of fresh produce grown at North Queensland’s Black River Produce.  

The family farming enterprise specialising in watermelon and asparagus has been able to continue pioneering the North Queensland vegetable cropping industry with a North Queensland Restocking, Replanting and On-Farm Infrastructure co-contribution grant less than two years since the monsoon trough weather event. 

Owner Jon Caleo said without a North Queensland Restocking, Replanting and On-Farm Infrastructure Grant, administered through the Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority (QRIDA) on behalf of the Australian Government, the operation would likely not have recovered.  

“Our business would probably not be in operation now if it was not for the grant, we would be struggling,” he said.  

“It wasn’t a choice, it was a necessity. If we hadn’t accessed the grant we probably would not be in production today.  

“There are 20 people who would not be employed and there would be cows running on this ground.” 

Jon said infrastructure including roads and 200 acres of watermelons were destroyed in the disaster – both were replaced with the North Queensland Restocking, Replanting and On-Farm Infrastructure Grant.  

“The replanting and infrastructure grant helped us in two specific ways,” he said.  

“It helped us buy plastic and seeds and plant the crops and get them back in the ground.  

“The infrastructure element has helped us mainly with roads; 99% of what we lost was roads and in the case of the home farm, it was a bridge which was totally washed away. 

“The things the grant was designed to replace is exactly what we needed it for. We didn’t need it for anything else. That’s where it was targeted and that’s where it helped us.” 

Jon said the assistance meant he was able to continue normal business operations and prepare for long-term business resilience. 

“It allowed us to plant and get the farm back going,” he said.  

For information about the North Queensland Restocking, Replanting and On-farm Infrastructure Grants, Freecall 1800 623 946 or visit qrida.qld.gov.au