Pair have no beef about love apples

Lauren CelenzaCountryman

Tomatoes kept cattle farmer James Wringe on the land when beef prices fell.

The fifth-generation Upper Capel farmer started growing tomatoes as a teenager for a summer income.

He soon realised the savoury fruit was worth a buck so he kept with it and now it has overtaken his family’s long-running beef business.

James began with about 4000 tomato plants in the 1980s.

He used the profits to upgrade equipment and developed markets with supermarket chains.

James’s neighbour, Garry Quick, soon caught on and joined him in his venture.

They now run Wringe and Quick Tomatoes, which produces about 600 tonnes of tomatoes each year.

“Tomatoes have kept us on the land,” James said.

“If we had have relied on our beef, we wouldn’t have moved forward.

“In the past five years, we have spent more money on the farms out of the tomato profits than we would have done with just the beef.”

James said he didn’t mind the extra work that went with growing tomatoes.

“There is a lot more work involved in them compared to running a beef herd but they are certainly more profitable then beef,” he said.

The tomato season in Upper Capel starts with planting in October and picking from January through to April.

“We spend 95 per cent of our time on the tomatoes in summer,” James said.

“And costs are high with labour, packaging and freight amounting to most of our expenses.”

Third-generation beef farmer Garry said there was a lot of work involved in growing tomatoes but didn’t mind the extra income.

“Just looking at the bank balance, it’s not hard to see that the tomato crop has made more money than the beef,” he said.

James said despite beef prices coming back up recently, they were still only where they were in 2002–03.

He sells about 200 vealers and 80 feeders each year and retains some for trade cattle sales throughout the year.

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