Missing in Action

Missing in Action

“To be successful, the first thing we must do is fall in love with our work”.

 We headed down to the Greater Whitsunday Farmers’ Market to catch up with an inspirational group of women who love their work.  As you will see it’s more than just work, it’s their passion and an all-consuming way of life.  To these women in farming it is their heritage and their future. It is also the future of each of us – healthy clean eating, produced right from the earth and ocean!


The Women in Farming we spoke with at the GWFM come from all walks of life, a coal miner, a journalist, a building designer and a Hamilton Island employee.  What has drawn them to farming? What has inspired them to keep going? These women have character, hope and dedication.

How about we meet some of these women in farming who head to the city every week to share their amazing produce and products with locals at the Greater Whitsunday Farmers’ Market down on the Bluewater Quay in Mackay City Centre.


We caught up with Deb McLucas from Freckle Farm at Eton (just west of Mackay) where they farm free range eggs, pork and beef.  Here’s what she had to say;

If you could farm anything in the world what would it be?
I am actually farming what I love to produce right now.  The only thing I would add to the farm would be fruit and vegies on a commercial scale – oh and olives!

Given the opportunity would you grow more of what you have or would you grow new product/produce lines? 
We operate under holistic farming principles and so biodiversity is important to us.  At the moment we are thinking of adding enterprises that compliment what our animals do for the farm.  Small crops like sweet potato, pumpkins and watermelons are all options that we could grow.

What did you do before you were a farmer? 
I was a journalist and broadcaster for ABC Radio.  I worked in the rural department and so got to talk to farmers every day, which was very interesting.  It gave me lots of ideas to help when my husband and I started our own farming venture.

We all have challenges however we believe in the value of focusing on the good, so today – what are you most thankful for? 
I really love the community aspect that surrounds the local food movement.  As farmers we are often isolated when we are working on our farms, but coming to the Farmers’ Market every Wednesday brings us all together like a BIG family.

Deb McLucas is not only a farmer, she is a mother of three girls (twins + one) and is also caring for a brand new poddy calf so, soeffectively mum to four.  Deb is Chair of the Greater Whitsunday Food Network, the driving force behind our food movement in Mackay.


Next we moved on to Market HQ where we chatted to Grasstree Beach B&B and Mango Farm host RosemaireFornaro-Widmer.

Rosemaire makes delicious jams and sauces from  produce grown on her farm at Grasstree Beach. We asked Rosemarie the same questions and this is how she answered – straight forward and no mucking around.

If you could farm anything in the world what would it be?
Mushroom, herbs, berries and stonefruit.

Given the opportunity would you grow more of what you have or would you grow new product/produce lines?
Dragonfruit and more lemon, lime and chillies.

What did you do before you were a farmer?
I was a building designer.

 We all have challenges however we believe in the value of focusing on the good, so today – what are you most thankful for?
Good health + great family life.


Moving up the Pioneer Valley all the way to Eungella we haveAli Kidd from Holistic Valley Farm.

On the farm their main focus is growinggarlic, but it doesn’t stop there.With a spirit full of energy and fun we were inspired by Ali – possibly to get our on piece of paradise.

If you could farm anything in the world what would it be?
EVERYTHING!!!  More varieties of garlic, all fruit and veg imaginable. A little bit of everything!  Rice &grains and everything else that we eat daily.

 Given the opportunity would you grow more of what you have or would you grow new product/produce lines?
New products for sure! We hope to have a range of produce that increases in diversity every year.  If it grows well on our farm, then we want to grow it!  2017 will bring turmeric, galangul and ginger in addition to our gorgeous range of garlic.

What did you do before you were a farmer?
Coal mining.  My partner and I have mined for more than a decade and in September 2015 we purchased our farm.  It has been full steam ahead since then and we hope to eventually be solely farming offering a range of organic produce to the community and building/improving the soil on our farm.

 We all have challenges however we believe in the value of focusing on the good, so today – what are you most thankful for?
My hardworking and dedicated partner Adz.  Without his constant drive and endless ideas this would be just a dream of ours.  He is the backbone of our farm and I am very lucky to be making this happen with him.

Wow, we just love Ali.  You cannot help but feel her spirit and love for what she does.


One of the quieter but cheeky women at the Farmers’ Market is Rebecca Hold.

Rebecca comes from a pawpaw and banana farm near Bloomsbury (along the highway heading up to Airlie Beach).  R&R Hold Fruit and Vegies grow a range of produce on the farm including pawpaw’s, bananas, pubpkins and passionfruit.

If you could farm anything in the world what would it be?

Exotic fruit;pawpaws, mango, custard apple and soursop. (Seriously, I have to Google some of this fruit)

Given the opportunity would you grow more of what you have or would you grow new product/produce lines?

More produce like cumquat, guava and soursop.

What did you do before you were a farmer?

Domestic helper in Hong Kong and 12 years in hospitality at the Whitsunday’s Hamilton Island.

 We all have challenges however we believe in the value of focusing on the good, so today – what are you most thankful for?

Good weather (no surprises from this farmer!)

Each week Rebecca and her partner head to farms in the Bundaberg area and source produce that is not available in the Mackay, Whitsunday and Isaac Region.  This is purchased direct from other farmers, to ensure the produce is fresh and as local as it can be. What a huge dedication to our Queensland farmers and to the GWFM shoppers.

Rebecca explained that our produce is limited by season and weather in North Queensland and so they have made relationships directly with farmers in neighbouring regions and regularly make the trip south to ensure we have fresh produce at the farmers’ market.  If you ask they will explain where the produce has come from and the farmer who grew it.  Best of all it is fresh and it is sourced from within Queensland farming regions.


A farmer that inspires every week is Mary-Ann Rafelo from Nannu Johnny’s Farm and Retrospect.  Mary-Ann and her husband John work the farm and with the abundance of extra fruit and vegetables on the farm Mary-Ann has created a delicious range of preserves, jams and sauces. Mary-Ann is truly one of the market family who always looks for new ways to value add the produce.

If you could farm anything in the world what would it be?
If the weather/climate was suitable John and I would love to grow cherries, olives or wine grapes.

Given the opportunity would you grow more of what you have or would you grow new product/produce lines?
Yes if the opportunity arose we would definitely like to try new products.

What did you do before you were a farmer?
I was in office administration and John continues his engineering business, but would like to retire to farming.

 We all have challenges however we believe in the value of focusing on the good, so today – what are you most thankful for?
I am thankful for my family and that we live in this wonderful country.

 Mary-Ann has been a regular stallholder at the GWFM since they started in June 2016.  Each week she has a supply of produce from the farm along with the jams, sauces and preserves.  Embracing a small seasonal market garden, Mary-Ann has various produce lines at her farmers’ market stall including Pumpkins, Beetroot, Herbs, Radishes, Eggplants, Lemons, Zucchini, Carrots, Potato, Garlic, Watermelons, Corn, Limes, Tomatoes, chillies and much more – all grown on the Nannu Johnny Farm at Walkerston.


What I have learnt from these amazing Women in Farming is that together they are family!   The spirit of togetherness at the Greater Whitsunday Farmers’ Market was refreshing.  The women I spoke with are dedicated to farming, they work hard and they inspire each other.

Farming – instilling work ethic in women of all ages.

The GWFM is operated by the Greater Whitsunday Food Network, a non for profit organisation that is recognised by the Australia Farmers’ Market Associationdue to their commitment to the principles of the AFMA Charter.

Visit and meet your local farmer at the Greater Whitsunday Farmers’ Market every Wednesday 8am to 1pm, Bluewater Quay, River Street, Mackay City Centre.  Head to the GWFM Facebook page to stay up to date with seasonal produce or special events happening each week.


Image Supplied GWFM – Deb McLucas, Mary-Ann Refalo, Rosemarie Fornaro-Widmer, Rebecca Hold and Emma Melody.


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