Lockyer growers lured west on the promise of cheap land and water
Established fruit and vegetable producers looking to expand their operations have found fertile ground by the banks of the Macintyre Brook at Inglewood.
Several large producers have bought up land and built packing sheds in the small town, with the most recent being Barden Produce, out of the Lockyer Valley.
The company has already started preparing its newly acquired paddocks along the brook, with a view to planting for the winter season.
The company is expected to need about 50 seasonal workers and an additional 10 part-time and full-time staff.
It also has a longer-term plan to build a packing shed.
Barden’s move follows a decision by Qualipac, also based near Gatton, to move to Inglewood.
Goondiwindi Region Mayor Lawrence Springborg said the trend had been in the works for several years.
“It has developed because producers are looking to spread their risk,” he said.
“There is access to land, the cost is low, and because of neutral soils they can add exactly what they need.”
Competition for water in the Lockyer Valley was also encouraging growers to look elsewhere.
“Coolmunda Dam, in the context of water supplies in Southeast Queensland, is one of the more reliable dams,” Cr Springborg said.
“It’s not 100 per cent reliable, but it is good.”
The dam was built in the 1960s to feed the region’s tobacco and lucerne fields, then later stone fruit.
“Vegetable production has become a reality in the past four years,” Cr Spingborg said.
“Inglewood is an area we are very keen to promote for vegetable and fruit production.
“The Goondiwindi Regional Council has made particular recognition of this in its planning scheme, with small lot sizes that suit horticulture.”
While 60 new jobs might sound good, Cr Springborg said it would be difficult to fill those roles in the short-term.
“Recruiting a workforce in our area can be a challenge,” he said.
“But it is a challenge for the section in general.
“We welcome the employment of local people and people who want to move to our region for work.”
Originally published as Lockyer growers lured west on the promise of cheap land and water