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Australia: Open field tomato grower reflects on 2012 Farmer of the Year award

A commitment to innovation, improvement and sustainability was rewarded when north Queensland tomato growers Wayne and Leanne Born were named as 2012 Farmer of the Year awards, in the horticulture section. The awards acknowledge farmers in a number of rural sectors who set new benchmarks in their respective industries.

Koorelah Farms, owned by the Born family, is a 270-hectare gourmet tomato growing and packing operation located in Bowen, south of Townsville, producing around 8,000 tonnes of tomatoes a year.

Leanne Born says she decided to enter the awards because of her passion to communicate the reality of farming in Australia today.

"A lot of people that come and visit our farm just go 'Wow! We didn't realise that it takes all of this to get this tomato in a box to the supermarket shelves.'"

"I just don't think that people realise the capital infrastructure necessary, or how technologically advanced farming is, particularly with irrigation systems, or pest control on-farm and then things like cooling in the packing shed or the transport that gets it to the Southern States."

Leanne says on-farm innovations have included continuous trialling of different varieties, using integrated pest control and continuous monitoring of run-off to ensure it meets environmental standards going into the Great Barrier Reef Catchment.

Leanne, who runs the packing shed operation, says installing computerised grading technology along with a blemish grader is removing the subjective judgement of human graders from the operation and replacing it with much more objective technology.

"The machine is very specific in what it takes out, and it helps us to improve the overall consistency of our lines and that's an important thing in selling to supermarkets and other markets."

Leanne say the win in the Farmer of the Year Awards was a real feather in the cap of for all their workers and show-cased the region nationally and internationally.
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