Fisherman’s friend

I’ve driven my first-ever tractor today, and I didn’t crash it. Just lost another bet by any chance, Rob?

I’m back on my farming travels having flown just over two hours from Darwin and moved half an hour in time zones to Cairns in Queensland.

Cairns started off as a gold-mining town but it’s now largely dependent on tourism, thanks to its tropical climate and and its proximity to the Great Barrier Reef.

The climate means the area is also pretty good for farming – sugarcane and bananas are the top crops, but other tropical fruits like mangoes, paw paws and pineapples are also grown here.

The person I’ve come here to visit though doesn’t grow any of these things.

Marty is one of my Nuffield chums and is without doubt the nicest farmer in Queensland, if not Australia. I have to say such things, because Marty farms barramundi. While barramundi aren’t particularly scary (though they are pretty big), the crocodiles that live in his fishponds are, and I don’t want to give him any reason to send me swimming in the water.

Marty used to have a banana plantation, but moved into fish after getting fed up of cyclones destroying the plants. He now has 33 ponds which are home to more than 200,000 of his aquatic friends, plus sheds which house another 100,000 babies.

He sells the baramundi to wholesalers in bigger cities down the coast, like Sydney, so this morning he took me fishing to collect the weekly supply for the markets.

Fishin'

Along with his little team of helpers, Marty first drags a net across one of the ponds before the catch is scooped up and plonked into huge tubs of iced water. The water is about -2 degrees, so within a couple of minutes the fishies are lulled to sleep before they flip away to fishy heaven.

I’m not sure I was really any use in this morning’s activities, but seeing as I got my fingernails dirty, I got to wear Marty’s awesome hat and this is a story about fishing, I’m going to claim I helped catch the 4.5 tonnes of fish.

I did manage to almost reverse a tractor in a straight line though. I’m just sorry to report my first tractor experience was a Case, not anything green and yellow. Sorry, Kev.

Tractor driver

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