It’s not surprising that Craig Evans is affectionately known as the Byron Bay Banana Man. After all, he’s been a familiar face at Byron Farmers Market for more than 15 years, selling his locally grown bananas.
His stall is not difficult to spot, with a banana-plastered surfboard out the front. The reason? It marries his two great loves – farming and surfing.
‘It’s 20 minutes from my farm to the sea – it’s magic,’ says Craig. ‘I can be surfing in the morning, then up working on the farm in the afternoon.’
But behind Craig’s relaxed and easy-going nature is a commitment to both the land and the ocean. ‘One of the biggest wake-up calls for me with being a farmer is also being a surfer – and especially with the short distance between the ocean and my farm. On the way from the surf to the farm, I follow the river from the sea to the mountain. The top of the stream is on the mountain and it leads into the ocean, so I have a big responsibility about what goes into that stream and ends up in the ocean.’
With no family connection to the land, Craig fell into farming by default. When he first came to Byron Bay over 30 years ago, his stop was the hospitality industry, but that and a young family was not an ideal mix, so he decided to make the change.
After working on farms from north Queensland to Victoria, Craig settled back on a banana farm in the Byron hinterland. Only a matter of years later, his boss signed the lease over to Craig.
That was 17 years ago, and the only thing that has really changed in that time is how Craig sells his bananas.
‘I was originally boxing up bananas and sending them off to the wholesale produce markets in Brisbane and Sydney, which wasn’t very satisfying. Then when a cyclone hit up north and there was demand for locally grown bananas so I joined Byron Farmers Market. I still get a kick out of going to the markets. I love that I grow the bananas and sell them directly to the person eating them, being able to look them in the eye and have a chat.’
The Byron Farmers Market is held every Thursday 7am–11am at the Cavanbah Centre and Bangalow Farmers Market is every Saturday morning 7–11am behind the Bangalow Pub.