Home' Smart Farmer : March 2012 Contents March 2012
By MAX OPRAH
HE proprietor of Raine &
Horne's Mannum office,
Adrian Davis points a finger
squarely at the banking sector to
explain the lack of activity to drive
the development of smaller farming
A real estate agent in the region for
20 years, he says there was plenty of
property subdivision in his area until
But he believes that since the
downturn, banks have been reserved
about investing in small-scale agri-
"In the past few months, residen-
tial has started to pick up, but we get
virtually no enquiries from develop-
ers about small farms,"
Mr Davis is not alone.
"The viability of these projects is
being governed by the international
financial situation," Elders
Meningie's Steve Wake said.
He has also seen some interest in
residential lately, but little else.
"(There's) been some interest with
low-end houses in Tailem Bend,
around the $130,000 to $180,000
range. As for small farms, not really.
There are a few around Meningie, the
owners run cattle on them, but they
bought at a time when banks were
lending," he said.
Elders Murray Bridge's, Gavin
Clarke, says that smallholding sales
have been slow, citing development
planning regulations as a challenge.
He says interest has only been
shown in such properties by locals
looking for somewhere to live, or
retirees moving out of the city.
Mr Clarke recently sold a 3.5-
hectare allotment at Mypolonga to
retirees Gordon and Lesley Andrews.
They had decided to settle in the
area, run chickens and possibly some
livestock to keep the grass down.
Before their purchase, they had
spent nearly a year trying to obtain
some Crown Land, but the process
had been taking too long, so they
opted for the Mypolonga block.
Landmark Harcourts South East
real estate agent Geoff Watts also
reported some smallholdings being
sold to retirees, particularly around
"They are usually baby-boomers
getting out of the city for a tree-
change. They are retired, or work off-
farm, just doing hobby stuff with the
land," he said.
But not all small-scale agriculture
projects are hobby farms.
Many that started operating before
the onset of economic turmoil have
developed into viable commercial
One example is Dave and Anita
Reilly's Gurra Downs project, near
Smallholdings at mercy
of global financial crisis
Some interest in residential
Retirees, tree-changers show
Viable Riverland operations
REAL estate agents across regional South Australia find growth of small-scale
farming being stifled by banks unwilling to invest.
Value-added operations buck trend but...
The property started as 16ha in
1990, and expanded to 60ha in
1997 after the Reillys convinced a
neighbouring broadacre operation to
subdivide some land.
The farm at first grew pumpkins
and then winegrapes, but saline irri-
gation water from the Gurra Gurra
Wetland prompted the couple to
investigate salt-tolerant crops.
They have added pomegranates
and figs to their production, but the
main focus is date palms.
"We've ended up becoming a tis-
sue-culture date palm nursery in
order to support an emerging
Australian industry," Mrs Reilly said.
"This has had good spin-offs for
our family business and has enabled
us to survive the years of low wine-
Since expanding into dates, Gurra
Downs has built on its success, win-
ning the Khalifa International Date
Palm Award for Best New
Development. Business is going well
enough for the couple to work full-
time on the project.
They have also developed
As a small organic farm surrounded
by large conventional operations, a
challenge is guarding against poten-
tial spray drift from neighbours.
But Mrs O'Reilly says the "trouble"
that comes with going organic is
worth it, because a small farm needs
to have a point of difference to be
"For us, it has been that we're
organic and that we sell date palms
which, while an internationally well-
recognised agricultural commodity,
is a relatively new crop for
FOR Jackie and David O'Reilly (pic-
tured above), achieving success at
their 6.5-hectare property in the
Southern Flinders Ranges has been
The couple are able to sell their
O'Reilly's Orchard dried fruit at a pre-
mium because it is organic and sul-
They dry their peaches, plums, nec-
tarines, pears and apricots using an
innovative solar-electric dryer invented
by South Australian Tim Steele.
The diversity of fruit grown on the
property also ensures the harvesting
period is spread from November
through to July. To maximise revenue,
the couple retail everything them-
selves, and even offer a paddock-to-
plate private dining service.
The business is self-sustaining, but
the couple have off-farm jobs to fund
Jackie says they do not run the farm
for the money, but "what we really
want is to make food that tastes like it
should, not the flavourless stuff you
get in the supermarkets".
As much as they love what they do,
she says small-scale farming can be
tough going, and not just in a physical
"The constant demands of regula-
tions and paperwork really eat into
our time, and can take the fun out of
it," she said.
"We even get audited to see if
we've wiped our benches!"
Challenging pursuit of flavour
Anita Reilly with some of her Gurra Downs dates. Anita and her husband Dave
also grow pomegranates and figs.
Since expanding into dates, Gurra
Downs has built on its success,
winning the Khalifa International Date
Palm Award for Best New
Dates are a relatively new crop for
Gurra Downs has also started
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