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Chris and Paquita's story

Chris and Paquita bought their first plantation in Carnarvon in 1985. It was full of bananas which they replaced with jojoba and mangoes. When in California, researching jojoba, Chris had seen asparagus growing between jojoba rows, in the desert, as a quick cash crop until the jojoba bushes matured. The Gascoyne Research Station doubted asparagus would succeed in Carnarvon but Jamie Dempster remembered his mother growing it at Meedo Station: “Grew like a weed. Right through summer. Couldn’t kill it. Even in a drought.” Chris reasoned that If asparagus could withstand the extreme heat of an inland Gascoyne summer then the odd heat wave on Carnarvon’s cool coast would be no problem.
That was how yet another new crop was introduced to Carnarvon. Each new crop has its pioneers and challenges, and a plethora of background stories. 
The first banana growers had to burn their crops to the ground and start over, with planting material that was free of Panama Disease. One grower refused. The others did it for him, on horseback, in the dark. 

The first pumpkin crop pre-dated the establishment of suitable bees for pollination. Having survived a locust plague, the young pumpkin pioneers, the Mitchells on Eastern Plantation, did not let this phase them and pollinated the entire crop by hand.  When the Durmaniches grew Carnarvon’s first capsicums, so popular back home in Yugoslavia, they were unsaleable in Perth.


Their main hurdle was the education of Australian palates. Every few years new farmers or new ideas sprout in Carnarvon’s rich loam, equitable climate and regular irrigation water.  Asparagus fared well. Some might see its vigorous growth and need of daily harvest an impost, but no more so than daily milking or mushroom picking. In Carnarvon it has no diseases and any ground pests are willingly removed by flocks of ibis. It is neither ripped out of the ground nor blown down in a cyclone. It just keeps on growing, one way and then another, as the eye passes over. The first time this happened these funny, corkscrew spears needed harvesting, to bring on new, straight spears. As it had to be harvested anyway, why not sell it? It was dispatched with a quirky name on each box, RED ALERT ASPARAGUS, and a message to the agent to get what he could for it. It sold surprisingly well, probably the only produce to come out of cyclone ravaged Carnarvon. Then, days later, the agent rang to say it was all being returned with many complaints. He had not opened even one box and his clients had no idea what the words ‘red alert’ meant, nor what Carnarvon had just been through. Where was their sense of humour? Or compassion? It’s very different now. The public can watch our floods, fires and cyclones in real time on their phones. Who’d have thought?


 Taken in 2012, twenty-five years after they planted their first asparagus. Chris and Paquita retired from asparagus production in 2020, by leasing the farm to innovative Ozparagus, for the production of white asparagus now, as well as green.

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