Cane farmer Bill Holding, whose roots in the Mt Pelion region go back to his grandfather, who immigrated from Scotland.
Cane farmer Bill Holding, whose roots in the Mt Pelion region go back to his grandfather, who immigrated from Scotland.

Mackay cane farmers prepare for crushing season

CANEFARMERS in the Mackay region are busy preparing for a June start to this year’s crushing season.

Mt Pelion grower Bill Holding, whose roots in the industry and the area go back decades, is expecting a good crop due to sufficient rainfall this year.

He is also planting around 36ha of a new variety of Sugar Research Australia cane for next year’s harvest.

Farming is in Mr Holding’s blood. He grew up in the Mt Pelion area, about 50km north of Mackay, and learned his skills from his father George.

“My grandfather, also named Bill, was also in the business. He was an elected grower after World War II.

Bill Snr immigrated to Australia from Scotland as a child and later began farming on land near Racecourse Sugar Mill on the Peak Downs Highway.

In the 1920s, he moved to Mt Pelion and farmed there for 40 years.

He later became chairman of Mackay District Cane Growers Executive from 1945-1955 and again from 1956-1964.

Mr Holding’s father George subsequently expanded the family holding with the purchase of another 607ha property next to Mentmore Station near Pindi Pindi.

Mr Holding continued the farming business, simultaneously upgrading his farming skills, by leasing more land at Blackrock following his father’s death.

He now farms 202ha of cane and supplies Farleigh Mill with varieties that are selected on the Mackay Area Productivity Services’ recommendation, retaining or eliminating each variety based on its performance on the farm.

“I incorporate a trash fallow on the recommendation of my father, to give the soil a rest,” Mr Holding said.

“I spray out and use zero tillage in soil preparation to prevent compaction and erosion.”

In addition to doing his own cane harvesting and planting he is also a harvesting and planting contractor for his neighbours.

However, the Mt Pelion area is not only the source of Mr Holding’s livelihood, it’s also an area where he loves to go fishing and hunting as he says it keeps him fit.

Mr Holding was one of about 20 growers in the area who undertook Canegrowers' voluntary best management practice program, Smartcane BMP, a few years back and is now accredited.

The program focuses on meticulous records in regard to farming practices.