Mick Gentle’s Bonville Bananas

Meet one of our producers, Mick Gentle the Bonville Banana Farmer

  1. Do you have a nickname?: Dundee, maybe because I’m a bit of a bushie at heart, and I use a big knife.
  2. Sum yourself up in one sentence: An honest Aussie bloke that loves his country fishing, farming and spending time with good people.
  3. Describe your business in one sentence: I grow Bananas with care for the land, the environment, and the quality of the end product.
  4. When and why did you start your business?: I’ve been a banana farmer since around 1990, I first started farming with my first wife and her family, and loved it. When I started out on my own, I kept farming on leased farms in North Bonville and remarried. My wife and I purchased our own property in Bonville in 2014 and cleared the land to plant bananas. I now have over 4000 plants, with three varieties growing.
  5. What led you to your career?: I have always loved being on the land. My grandfather was a farmer and I attribute my love of farming to him.
  6. Tell us about where you grew up and what your family life was like. How/did this influence you?: I’m a local and grew up in Karangi, with Mum and Dad and my twin brother. We had a great childhood and our family life was good. My brother and I spent all our waking hours outdoors, mostly up to mischief but always having fun, and Dad taught us how to shoot, build, and repair things. Mum taught me about good health and always fed the family homegrown and very healthy food. As an adult, I can build or fix most things that I need to, and I love healthy nutritious food. Especially my wife’s cooking.
  7. Your strongest influences in life?: My best mate John who unfortunately is no longer here, had a huge influence on my life from the age of 14. He seemed to know everything and always had the answers for me. Another John, that I worked with as a young fella at Coffs Harbour Removals was a mentor and taught me a great work ethic.
  8. Your most treasured craft, tool or possession?: My willingness to learn would have to be my most valued ‘craft’, and second to that is my desire to put new learnings into practice. My most valued tool would have to be my old Kubota tractor. She’s heading into her 40th year and she’s never let me down. The old girl has done things on the farm that would make your toes curl.
  9. What inspires you?: Putting a perfect hand of bananas into the carton gives me a real sense of pride and satisfaction knowing someone will get to enjoy the fruit I work so hard to produce.
  10. What is your favourite quote?: Dad used to say that “a problem is just a solution in reverse”. I try to live by that quote.
  11. What is your favourite banana dish?: I love the Ducasse variety sliced, frozen and blended to make ice cream, and I also have peanut butter (from the Happy Frog) banana and local honey wrap each day. I eat 3 bananas a day. If you eat my Ducasse variety, these need to be consumed when they are very ripe.
  12. What surprises people about what you do?: Many people are really surprised about how much is involved with growing and harvesting bananas. There is a great deal to it and being a banana grower is not for the faint-hearted or anyone that doesn’t like hard work. Some bunches can be up to 50 kilos, and you have to carry that from the plant to the truck which can be up to 30 metres away on steep land. They are also surprised that I work the whole farm by myself with just a couple of days help from my mate Tim.
  13. What makes you happy?: Seeing beautiful fruit packed into the carton. When my fruit is full and healthy it means the farm is doing well. I also love fishing, so a day on the river or a nice jewfish caught off the rocks makes my day. A relaxing coffee in bed with my wife in the morning, (with beans from the Happy Frog of course) and seeing my kids and new grandson is also happiness fodder for me.
  14. What do you like about living on the Coffs Coast?: There are so many things. The climate, our awesome beaches, rivers, and mountains. I also value that we can buy most of our food locally from small businesses and from farm gates and keep our money circulating in our own community.
  15. What is the most significant positive change in your local area?: Seeing more fresh local food available at markets is something that I feel is very positive. We have so many good farmers locally and it’s great to be able to eat local food.
  16. What are you most proud of accomplishing?: I have to say that it’s our farm at Bonville. We were late starters, and to have been able to clear our property which was totally overgrown with weeds and turn it into a beautiful abundant farm has been a huge accomplishment for my wife and me. It’s still evolving and we are enjoying the journey.
  17. Describe a scene of your vision for the future: Just talking about Coffs Harbour, I think that while ever we have farmers here growing produce we are in a good position. If things get tough in the future the growers would support the community with produce.

Watch the video of Mick Gentle’s farm tour.

Thank you Mick!

 

 

Benjamin Allmon Author
BECC Youth Crew (Boambee East Community Centre)