Then and now: recovering from the 2019 North Queensland Monsoon Trough

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After losing more than three months of production and the majority of their crops when the monsoon trough weather event devastated their property in 2019, life for the Caleo family now looks a little different.

QRIDA Program

Jon Caleo

“I can probably say for the first time in years, I sleep a full night. My wife is a lot more relaxed – it’s a lot of pressure on the whole family when things aren’t relaxed. The farming business is going well,” Jon Caleo from Black River Produce in North Queensland says.

Jon accessed a North Queensland Restocking, Replanting and On-Farm Infrastructure co-contribution grant through the Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority (QRIDA) to replant his crops, replace damaged infrastructure and rebuild roads on the property following the disaster event.

“The farm wouldn’t be up and running, the farm wouldn’t be employing the people, earning the money that it is – none of that would have happened without the money from QRIDA,” Jon explains.

“Honestly, we would have really struggled without the QRIDA assistance to be back where we are. I don’t know where we’d be without it.”

While predominantly growing watermelon, Black River Produce is still pushing forward with their asparagus production.

“The asparagus business is still in its infancy. We’ve planted another 20 acres this year, so now we’re at 30 acres of asparagus, and we’ll plant another 10 acres later this year.”

Employing more than 15 people, the business is continuing to be a pioneer in the horticulture world.

“For four months of the year, all asparagus is imported, but we’re trying to prove that it can be grown all year round. If we can do that, Australia won’t have to import any asparagus. We’re working with another grower who is trying to do the same thing and produce asparagus through Australia’s winter, so we’re growing seedlings for him to plant up there,” Jon explains.

Looking to the future, Jon isn’t just looking forward to more restful sleep, but also for his son Anthony to take over a third of the farming business.

“With the QRIDA assistance we’ve survived and come out the other side. The farm is now a very well-established business with all our sales. It’s a good business and a business that my son won’t need to expand on,” Jon says.

“We’re probably 95-100% recovered from the disaster. The farm wouldn’t be where it is without QRIDA.”

North Queensland Restocking, Replanting and On-Farm Infrastructure co-contribution grants of up to $400,000 are available for primary producers to restock, replant and repair after flooding caused by the 2019 North and Far North Queensland Monsoon Trough. Applications for these grants are open until 30 June 2022.

For more information about the grants and how to apply visit the North Queensland Restocking, Replanting and On-farm Infrastructure Grant page.

QRIDA administers North Queensland Restocking, Replanting and On-Farm Infrastructure co-contribution grants on behalf of the Australian Government

Client story
Primary producer

Last updated: 06 May 2022