These days, Tony and Jacky White primarily grow pumpkins and keep bees — and their raw honey is absolutely delicious. They sell their pumpkins from their farm-gate roadside stall in Kerry, on the corner of Duck Creek Road, and the honey is sold locally. The farm, originally a dairy, has been in Tony’s family for generations, and it is where Tony and Jacky have raised their three children. The Whites are passionate about growing and producing food naturally, and they’ve made many of their farming decisions on the basis of ‘keeping it real’.
TONY AND JACKY WHITE
What is the history of your farm?
JACKY: Tony has lived in this house since he was born.
TONY: The house was built in 1948. My dad built it. We’re on about 350 acres. We go from the river to the top of the hill. Some of the land on the hill isn’t good, but the cows do go up there.
JACKY: It is pretty, though. Tony goes up there to look at the fireworks in Brisbane.
TONY: You can see lights going off, but you can’t hear the noise. Anyway, the land has been in the family for quite a while — a few generations. Dad died when I was twenty, and I’ve been running it ever since. That was forty-something years ago. They milked cows for a while. They had a dairy and pigs. The cream went to the butter factory in Beaudesert, and the separated milk went to the pigs. Of course, pigs and milk go very well together. There was canned milk and canned cream, but, then, you had to go into bulk. You had bulked vats and the cans were no longer any good. You had to either go to bulk milk or do something else. That’s when Dad decided he wanted to grow tomatoes, so we started to get into small-cropping. They went well. It is very fertile along the river banks.
Where the blue house is over there, that was part of Herb O’Reilly’s. Herb O’Reilly owned that block of land there, and eventually Mum and Dad ended up buying it, which made this place quite a good farm.
JACKY: Herb was married to Tony’s grandmother’s sister.
TONY: You know the Stinson aircraft? It is where they planned the rescue, over there. Bernard O’Reilly was the one who ended up finding them, but it was all planned from over there.
Can you tell us a little about the story?
TONY: The Stinson was flying low. It was rainy weather, very overcast, and it crashed up in the mountains, there. The sun came out and Bernard O’Reilly could see a burnt bit, way in the distance, and they just followed that and eventually they found them. The old Chevy ute that Dad had — they brought the others out in the back of the ute. It was before my time. I might have been at boarding school.
How did your father’s mother come by the land?
TONY: It was part of Ward’s property next door and my grandmother married a Ward. They cut a block of land off for her.
JACKY: She and her two sisters started the dairy.
TONY: And Dad took it over.
So, small-cropping — what did you grow?
JACKY: When we were growing tomatoes, we were selling them green to the markets, but then they decided they wanted them ripe. So, we had to gas them [with ethylene], and we didn’t like gassing them. So, that’s why we went into the capsicums.
TONY: You know how sometimes you get a tomato, you cut it open and it is hollow inside? That’s just a green, immature tomato. I don’t know how much goodness would be in it.
JACKY: So, we started growing a few thousand capsicums. We picked them by hand in a bucket, but then we had the machine made. Our neighbour down the road, Kent Rose, built it for us. Tony told him we wanted something where we could sit down low and pick and move along. It is motorised machine, and it is over there in the shed still. So, we can grow a lot more and pick a lot quicker, then just bring the picker home and pack it in the shed. There’s nothing like fresh capsicum. Beautiful, crisp and you can eat them like an apple.
When did you start growing pumpkins?
TONY: We’ve always grown pumpkins. We’d go twice a week to take our veg to market. But we’ve retired from doing that now, with our capsicums. Our pumpkins — we sell a few at the roadside, and a few at Ward’s driveway in Beaudesert and what we don’t use the cows eat. They love them. Cattle do very well on pumpkins. We have about fifty Brahmans.
When did you get the cattle?
JACKY: My dad gave the kids — we have three kids — and he gave them two Jersey cows, and they had calves on them. The kids baled the cows up and fed the calves on the cows every morning and afternoon, before and after school. They’d sell the calves and we’d buy another couple of small ones to replace them. That was their pocket money. Then they built the herd up and we ended up with about twelve cows. We bought the calves and they got the money, so they were on a good deal. But it taught them responsibility. They had to do it rain, hail or shine, they got up every morning and every afternoon. Then, we started growing watermelons and selling them at the road, and they’d get the money from that, too. Now the kids have gone, people still want to buy watermelons, so we have to keep doing it.
TONY: As Jacky was saying, the kids had those cows. We didn’t give them any money. They’ve never been out of work a day in their lives. They don’t come asking us for money because they had to spend their own money. They’re self-sufficient.
How did you two meet?
JACKY: At a dance at the Tamrookum Hall. I am from a farm, too. I swore I’d never marry a farmer. But, there you go. That was the end of that.
Why does your honey taste so good?
TONY: We have good trees here. We have iron bark trees and these gum-topped box. They are nice big, mature trees. The closer you get to the coast, the stronger the honey.
JACKY: And it is not touched, not cooked. It is raw.
TONY: Herb O’Reilly had a couple of hives. When I was a little fella, he had the veil and the smoker, and I was just dying to have a look. I had to stand back, but I’ve had that interest since then. Then, down at the local Kerry dance, there was a bloke coming from Southport that does bees, and we were talking about it. He said, ‘Do you want some bees?’ And I said, ‘Yeah. I’d love some.’ So, he gave me a box of bees, a smoker and a hive tool. Then, that winter, it was really cold and dry, and I ended up losing them. They died. They didn’t have enough food. So, that was disappointing.
Where do these bees come from?
TONY: I’ve caught swarms. Most of those here, I’ve caught. You wouldn’t believe how easy it is. When they swarm, they go to the hive and take as much honey as they can. They just fill up with honey. If you have a box, frames and the foundation in the frame, you just sit the box underneath and brush them in. If you get the queen, or if you get ninety per cent of the bees, you just put the lid on top of them and they start working in and out. You can go back at night after they’ve gone to bed, put something across the door and bring them to where you want them. It is simple.
Where do you sell your honey?
TONY: There’s a shop in town, Beau View in Beaudesert. It is a hardware shop. They are going through it like you wouldn’t believe. A hardware shop! He has done up a very nice sign. We take him in thirty bottles and, the last time, it was only a bit over a week before he’d sold out.
JACKY: At Darlington School Markets we sell a bit. And Tommerup’s Dairy Farm.
What do you like most about living on the farm?
JACKY: The lifestyle. Raising children out here is the best.