Despite growing up on a wheat and sheep farm, Nathan Townsend never saw farming in his future. However, a wish for a quieter lifestyle and financial assistance from the Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority (QRIDA), have given Nathan and his partner Tirtzah Hartvigsen a cracking start on their farming dream.
Five years ago, Nathan and Tirtzah were living on the Gold Coast when they decided they wanted a change of pace. They saw an ad for a Gympie macadamia farm in need of some repair and thought they would try their hand at farming.
“Other than in the odd backyard around the Gold Coast, we hadn’t seen a macadamia tree before. But we said, why not give it a go?” Nathan explains.
After purchasing the farm and spending four months cleaning it up, a visit from an agronomist confirmed that without a sustainable water supply, their farm had minimal hope of survival.
“We started looking into what we had to do to really turn the farm around, and that’s where QRIDA came in,” Tirtzah says.
“We immediately felt like QRIDA was an organisation we could trust. We applied for a loan and received finance to invest in irrigation across the property’s 2700 trees.
“If we hadn’t installed that irrigation, we’d be hundreds of thousands of dollars behind. The loan was vital.”
Soon after the couple settled in Gympie, Nathan’s parents purchased the macadamia property next door. When his parents decided to sell in April this year, the couple jumped at the opportunity to expand their enterprise and secured a First Start Loan to do so.
“It has really helped us… it was about security for the future,” Nathan says.
When reflecting on the application process for the loans, Tirtzah says it was made easier being guided by QRIDA’s Regional Area Manager for the Burnett region, Cynthia Godden.
“QRIDA was excellent. They understood what we were saying,” she says.
“Other lenders put up barriers as soon as you mention farming, whereas QRIDA welcomed it,” Nathan echoes.
Now with the two farms, Nathan and Tirtzah have produced an even better yield than they predicted. Their first harvest produced only three tonne – now, they’re harvesting 60 tonnes of macadamias across 4500 trees.
Nathan and Tirtzah remain positive looking to the future, enjoying life on the land – a life they say wouldn’t be possible without financial assistance from QRIDA.
For more information about QRIDA’s First Start or Sustainability Loans, visit qrida.qld.gov.au