Andrew Lewis grew up on a peanut farm and after university worked in commercial construction. His wife Zoe grew up on the Gold Coast and worked in finance in Brisbane before she and Andrew bought a cane farm on the northern side of Bundaberg shortly after the birth of their first child in 2009. They were excited to be leaving Brisbane and were confident that the rich soils of Bundaberg paired with the regions water security would be suitable for growing both peanuts and macadamias.
The couple moved to their current farm in 2013, located 15 min West of Bundaberg. For their first few years on the property, the couple farmed cane and peanuts while they painstakingly struck 48,000 macadamia trees from seed in their nursery and established their orchard block by block, grafting several macadamia varieties that were suited to their soil type. The process took four years. “We started planting in April 2016 and finished in October 2020,” says Zoe.
Since moving to Bundaberg, the pair have enjoyed the benefits of the tight-knit farming community. They have particularly enjoyed being a part of the thriving macadamia industry in the area which has grown substantially in the last few years. “It’s an exciting industry to be in, and in the Bundaberg district the macadamia growing community are all very open and friendly. We’ve got a great group of growers that are willing to share their new ideas and innovations. We are all interested in growing the best and most sustainable crop that we can.”
It’s not just the collaborative industry that the couple enjoy. It’s the ability to farm in a way that builds up the soil and sequesters carbon. Recent bumper prices have allowed growers to spend more on improving their soils. Andrew explains: “Pretty well all of the farms around Bundaberg have made a heavy investment in composting and spreading compost, we try to grow as much organic matter as we can to throw back under the trees. Once you’ve had the trees in the ground for a few years, and you’ve been continuing on with a compost and organic matter routine, you start to actively sequester carbon. Our carbon levels have doubled since we developed this farm for macadamias. The fact that we’re sequestering carbon is a big deal for our farm and the environment!”
They also love knowing that they are growing a crop that is good for people and one that they love eating. Normally, the couple opt for freshly cracked nuts using a trusty TJ’s nutcracker, but they also like to eat them roasted and lightly salted when they are “feeling adventurous”. Zoe and Andrew also use them often in cooking. “Chocolate macadamia brownies are good” says Zoe. “The kids are a fan of those. I also use them in salads or put roasted, crushed macadamias on the top of our Thai and Indian food.”