New options growing the future of North Burnett agriculture
A DEDICATED group of Monto growers have begun a cropping crusade they hope will breathe new life into the district's agricultural sector.
An informal meeting of primary producers at the local RSL culminated in the establishment, last Wednesday evening, of the Monto Growers Group.
A district first, the group is a collection of enthusiastic and like-minded agribusiness owners.
The farmers have joined forces to improve the region's growth prospects in a way that's economically, environmentally and socially sustainable.
The group's core is comprised of third, fourth and, in some case, fifth generation Monto farmers.
Small, family-owned, mixed farming operations that for decades have grown grain for their livestock.
President of the newly-formed group, Matthew Pattie, said its founding members shared a passion for agriculture and a genuine care for the future of the district.
"We had fantastic crops last year knocked out by a flood in October, which is very rare," he said.
"There were some guys really struggling, not just financially but on a personal level as well.
"There is power in knowing that your mate beside you has got your back if you need something.
"It really bound the group together and now we're serious about making something of this."
Like many farmers, Mr Pattie has noticed a change in the industry over the past decade.
Traditionally, the district's producers fell into one of four categories: piggeries, dairies, cattle or lucerne.
Lucrative returns on cereal grains, pulse crops and fodder have convinced many to rethink their livestock focus.
The expansion of end users, booming export market and proximity to feed lots, processing facilities and grading plants are some of the factors driving growth in cropping.
The sector has become more attractive and the Monto Growers Group is committed to helping producers cash in on these market trends.
Mr Pattie is investing in acres and encouraging others to do the same.
"A lot of us are now starting to move away from intensive livestock and our group is trying to get the district back into cropping," he said.
"That doesn't just include cereal and pulse crops, we're interested in growing anything.
"It's not exclusively for men that have 'X' amount of acres - it's open to everyone and the more the merrier."
The support network allows growers to share their ideas and expertise, and experiment with different crops and cropping methods in a way that's environmentally sustainable.
Monto is unique, different from other agricultural communities in the North Burnett.
According to Mr Pattie, the district must diversify if it is to prosper. He said an expanded cropping sector would create jobs and revitalise the local economy.
"I've got two boys and I'd like to think one of my sons can see a future in farming in Monto," he said.
"If we become an area that only focuses on cattle, we'll end up with a fencing contractor and a few musterers and there won't be any money going around.
"At the moment there are limited spraying and harvesting contractors, or machinery dealers in town.
"The more growers we have, the more we entice people to get involved in those industries. We might get another couple of families move here.
"With a vibrant cropping industry, there's all these spin-off benefits that brings commerce into the town."
The Monto Growers Group has arranged a bus trip on Friday, October 5, to visit the winter crops before harvest. If you want to get involved, contact Matthew Pattie or the Burnett Catchment Care Association on 41663898.