• Av. temp 25o
  • Population 2,850
  • Farms 12

Richard McGruudy

Wamuran, QLD

How old are you?

How many kids do you have and how old are they?
3: 6 daughter, 9 daughter, 12 son

Do you have any siblings, how many? How many boys, and girls?
2 brothers

How did you come to be a grower?
I was actually a registered nurse working in the operating theatres before all of this. But I think at some point I was after something a bit more suited and fulfilling in my lifestyle and decided I’d take a long service leave from nursing tried my hand at growing stuff. So in 2003 I bought a property on the outskirts of Brisbane and then 4 farms later, here I am growing strawberries.

Why strawberries?
Because 12 years ago I watched my parents grown them and it seemed easy enough given the size of strawberries!

What’s an important lesson you’ve learnt as a grower?
Do your best to maintain a work life balance and always make time with the family. This will help to keep you mentally prepared for anything that comes your way. When I spend time with the family, I do it properly. We tend to go away and make sure we treat it like a real holiday so we do get those much needed breaks. Going from being a nurse with more steady hours to becoming a grower where a 9-5 job doesn’t quite exist, might come with its own set of challenges, but the bright side of not being tied to a 9-5 job is the flexibility to be involved with the kids’ activities. It’s very much about family life quality for me.

What makes you proud to be an Australian grower?
It’s working where you live and having a passion with what you produce. You take so much pride in what you do that you end up being your own biggest critic, which in turn pushes you to make the best that you grow. Being an Australian grower means knowing your fruits are of high quality which is why there is a higher demand for Australian produce. We have strict quality assurance put in place to make sure no corners are cut and it’s that transparency of knowing what goes into the cultivation of our fruits that give that confidence we’re producing quality crops. As an Australian grower, when you do anything wrong, you stand to lose a lot not just your business but your home. That’s why we put in 100% into what we do.

We have a young growers’ program – what advice would you give the next generation of growers?
Growing of the crop is the easy bit – that’s the fun bit! The hard part is the back end of the job. It’s the budgeting, occupational health and safety, payrolls, cashflows, accounting – all that stuff you tend to forget about growing, but in reality is such a big portion of the job. You cannot just study the growing side of the work, you absolutely need to know the business side approach as well if you want to be successful and have a sustainable business. For that reason, two thirds of my time is spent on my staff, quality assurance and retention. Unfortunately I think the business side does get missed and a lot of the times that’s sadly when you see growers fall over. My advice is to start off in a size where the business can self perpetuate – don’t go in too small where you have to do everything, but also, don’t bite off more than you can chew.

People often think all fruits are created the same, but in reality, quality is hard to produce, can you tell us the hard work that goes behind the cultivation?
It’s about working when you need to work. There will be periods of the year where the farm needs to operate 7 days a week, but make sure during those periods you don’t get burnt out. Succession planning will help with that. Set up the organisation so it can work 7 days a week and doesn’t fall apart when one person isn’t there.