Macadamia farmer Henri Bader is proof that sometimes the best choices are made later in life.
Moving to Australia from South Africa when he was 50 years old, Henri became a macadamia grower at the age of 70, after retiring because his employer thought he was too old. “My employer made a big mistake,” declares Henry. “But they also did me a big favour, because I bought this piece of land. It was completely bare when I bought it – no trees, no house, no roads, no infrastructure. It had birds and rocks and camphor laurel trees and that’s all.”
Since then, Henri has planted almost 7,000 macadamia trees on his farm that spans nearly 100 acres in northern NSW. He’s out and about on his farm every day and in 2016 produced 70 tonnes of macadamias.
Henri has been a keen student of the art of macadamia growing, and he has been quite revolutionary in his approach over the years. He says his lack of experience when he entered the industry has been a blessing at times. “Sometimes it’s good to be new to an industry because you’re not in the same old groove as everyone else. New people bring fresh eyes and different ideas. We have made mistakes but we have learned from those mistakes. You can’t learn from what you’ve done well because there’s nothing to learn! But when you’ve made a mistake then you start learning.”
Henri describes macadamia growing as a chain. “A chain is as strong as its weakest link,” he says. “Therefore, everything is important. If the soil and tree aren’t healthy, you’re not going to get macadamia nuts. If there’s no pollination, you won’t get any macadamia nuts. Everything works together with everything else.”
Henri says that as a macadamia farmer, his primary concern is the soil, because that’s where the process starts. “If the soil is healthy, then the tree will be healthy, and then you have a good chance of producing a decent crop. Strong tree, good nuts,” he says.
Now in his 80s, Henri is constantly striving to produce the healthiest and best quality macadamias possible, and while he likes to keep up with the latest research and technologies, he believes the most important ingredient for success is attitude. “You don’t want to get into a rut. Everything is good as long as you have the right attitude towards it,” says Henri.