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May 2012 – A hard nut to crack

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Brenda and Bill Denham have a Macadamia farm of 800 trees in Chittering.

They planted all the trees themselves, the first 200 were planted about 18 years ago and will reach full production at 20 years old.

Brenda recalls how they arrived at Chittering all those years ago. Bill’s father had always said, “When you can afford to buy a little bit of land, buy it, because if we have another recession you can live a little bit off the land. These words had stuck in Bill’s mind so we thought we’d try Macadamias as a retirement thing”.

Given the right conditions, fully matured Macadamia trees can yield around 20-30 kilos of nuts per tree, which earns around $2.50/kilo.

Sounds pretty easy in theory, but the Denham’s are not there yet. Brenda says, “As yet it is not going to be a retirement option. The drought hasn’t been very helpful. The last few years we haven’t had many nuts, only 100 or 200 kilos. The more water, the more fruit sets. And you need the bees, with drought there is less bees.”

Brenda is very optimistic with this year’s season. “Thanks to good rainfall, the trees are full of nuts so we should harvest a lot more over the coming months from now until
August.”

With so many nuts to pick, Bill has come up with an innovative plan. Rather than hand picking all the nuts he has purchased a vacuum machine and with a minor modification, they no longer need to bend over and hand pick the nuts.

They sell most of their nuts to a Helena Valley processor; Greenacres, who dry them and sell them throughout Perth markets.

Always looking for ways to increase farm returns, Brenda value-adds by creating a range of nut products. She is now selling her Macadamia Rocky Road, Spicy nuts and Chilli nuts at the monthly Bindoon Markets.

I haven’t always been a fan of Rocky Road but I confess I’m a sweet tooth so I was willing to try. I was pleasantly surprised to taste the macadamia nut addition. It is a fabulous balance to the marshmallow. I’ve gone back for more!