Growers overcome labour shortage with on-farm accommodation thanks to QRIDA Sustainability Loan
Angela and Gary Spotswood
Behind fields of organic cane and cattle, and rows of more than 40 different fruit and vegetable varieties at Mt Alma Organics in the Burdekin, farm workers put their feet up in a comfortable container home after a day of picking.
With housing and labour shortages making it difficult for Mt Alma Organics owners Angela and Gary Spotswood to secure workers, the husband-and-wife primary producers used a Sustainability Loan from the Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority (QRIDA) to fund the on-farm rural worker accommodation.
“Our seasonal worker pool is growing so we needed extra accommodation,” Gary said.
“We currently have 18 seasonal workers from the Solomon Islands that live and work on the farm here and their main roles are picking zucchinis, chilies, and watermelons.
“It's hard to find suitable housing close-by and the nearest town is 30 kilometres away.”
Mt Alma Organics’ new open-plan five-bedroom home has also helped boost team morale.
“It's been so beneficial for the workers. They have their own rooms. They enjoy it,” Angela said.
“We think having the workers living on farm builds a better community spirit within our own business.”
The Spotswoods also used the QRIDA Sustainability Loan to expand their cold room and packing shed with demand for their fresh produce increasing from some of Australia’s major supermarket retailers.
“The expansion that we've just done is to house some new equipment we've installed as our production has been increasing over the last three years,” Gary said.
“It's great to see that we can automate things. Everything from labelling to stickering to presentation.
“We just find it'll be more efficient. We can grow other crops and we can produce more, we can be faster in packaging and it helps on labour as well.”
As repeat QRIDA clients, the Spotswoods said completing the Sustainability Loan application was straightforward.
“We receive emails and information all the time on the Sustainability Loans, and we probably follow it regularly to see what suits and what's available to our business,” Gary said.
“For ourselves with the application, we're used to doing paperwork, so we don't find it so daunting.
“We would recommend QRIDA to other Queensland primary producers because we found them very easy to deal with.”
QRIDA’s Sustainability Loans of up to $1.3 million can help primary production businesses construct on-farm small-scale rural worker accommodation.
To find out how a Sustainability Loan could help develop your primary production business, visit QRIDA's Sustainability Loan page.