Bowen tomato farmers Jamie and Melita Jurgens have lived through many cyclones, but none as rough as Cyclone Debbie.
As the couple and their family sought safety indoors for 48 hours of terrifying weather they wondered what - if anything - would be left on their farm when the Cyclone finally passed.
The cyclone left Jamie and Melita Jurgens, of Vee Jay’s Kalfresh, with a $1-million repair bill, but the farmers were surprised to discover some of their crops had survived.
“Cyclones are a way of life up here but this was by far the biggest we’ve ever been through,” admits Jamie.
“It lasted so long. It blew away an entire glasshouse structure – it’s gone. We lost half a machinery shed and a packing shed. We also lost 50 per cent of the crops in the ground.”
Jamie’s a glass half full kind of farmer and that means while he lost 50 per cent of his tomato and baby capsicum crops, he still had half his crops to nurture back to health. And for the months after the cyclone that’s what he’s been doing.
The cyclone survivors are being harvested right now, with Jamie’s nutrient-rich Organic In-Conversion tomatoes in supermarkets and fruit shops around Queensland right now.
Jamie says the cyclone delayed the local season by about a month but production is now in full flight.
The Jurgens have been moving towards organic certification for the past five years. He is now supplying a range of Organic In-Conversion crops to chain stores and the central markets and hopes to be fully certified organic by 2018. He credits his organic farming methods for the survival of so many of his cyclone-impacted plants.
“The fact that 50 per cent of our crop survived is testament to the health of our soil here,” he says.
“Over the years we have been moving to an organic farming system and I believe that is the reason why so many of our crops withstood the cyclone. A biodynamic farming system really pays dividends with soil and crop health.
“It took about two weeks for the plants to shoot back. Even then you don’t know what will survive, you have to let nature take its course. It’s been so heartening to see them come through after a period in vegetable ICU. We’ve been giving them fertiliser, water and plenty of sunlight.”
Jamie says the best support Queenslanders can provide farmers like himself is to support them at the checkout by buying the produce that’s survived the cyclone.
“Sales at the register increase demand for our produce and that helps farmers pay down the damage bills left by Cyclone Debbie,” says Jamie.
“Our Organic In-Conversion tomatoes are delicious, sweet and juicy and packed with nutrients! Look out for them in supermarkets and in our Passionate Farmer brand.”