When fourth-generation farmer Frank Boyle lost his pecan crop this year owing to the wet weather conditions, he still had something to thankful for. While there were no nuts, there was a safety net – rice.
‘We were heading for a fairly good pecan crop this year,’ Frank said. ‘The trees and the crop survived the flood, but the relentless wet weather turned the orchard into mud and we couldn’t get any machinery out there to harvest.’
In an effort to salvage some of the crop, Frank, along with wife Andrea, daughter Sophie, and son-in-law Mac, even tried hand harvesting but to no avail.
‘We harvested about 200kg by hand, but 85 per cent was rotten because the nuts had been sitting in mud,’ he said. ‘Not having pecans really brings home the fact that when you’re in farming, you’re so vulnerable that you really need some diversity. So it’s a great relief to have the rice.’
The idea to plant rice was sparked when drought hit the Riverina region, a prime rice-growing area, in 2006–07 and the search was on for high-rainfall areas to grow rice.
The Boyle family farm at Goolmangar had already been cropping so it wasn’t a huge stretch to try rice.
‘We decided to plant out about a hectare of rice,’ Frank said. ‘We really wanted to diversify so we thought we’d give it a go.’
Frank had already been selling his pecans at Byron Farmers Market for a number of years and decided to test the rice at the market.
‘We turned up one Thursday morning with 50 1kg bags of rice and they were sold out within an hour and a half,’ he said. ‘It was incredible, and it really brought home that there are so many people in this area that are really passionate about eating locally grown food.’
Today the range of rice products has extended into rice cakes, rice flour, and rice crumbs.
Regular customers will have noticed not only the new faces of the next generation – Sophie and Mac – at the markets, but also a name change with Nimbin Valley Pecans and Rice switching to Marlivale Farm, after the name the family farm was given back in the 1840s.
Frank and the family hope to have pecans available again in March/April next year. In the meantime, you can still pick up their amazing pecan spread at Byron and Bangalow Farmers Markets.
Byron Farmers Market is held every Thursday 7–11am at Butler Street Reserve and Bangalow Farmers Market is every Saturday 7–11am behind the Bangalow Pub.