A FAR north Queensland avocado grower has witnessed the power of social media first hand, with a post offering reject avocados for sale receiving more than 100,000 views.
Matt, 36, and Jess, 35, Fealy, who moved to the 61 hectare-farm on Springs Road, Mareeba, three years ago, always knew social media had a role to play bridging the gap between the farmer and the consumer.
After failing to find a reliable market for “rough” produce that doesn’t make the grade in the packing shed, the Fealys took to Facebook. They’d had success with a similar offer during the mango harvest.
“We don’t like dumping them,” Jess said. “The other side is our goal is to have high quality produce so we have to grade tough, we are aiming for a market that knows Blue Sky Produce is top quality and it means we have rejects.”
But what happened next was unbelievable – 106,000 views, more than 1000 shares and more than 400 comments with orders. The 1300 kg of reject avocados sold out in no time.
“Everything we do on social media is building our brand because we recognise we are not big; we won’t make money on volume so we have to have a point of difference and quality is it,” Matt said.
“If we are going to have quality we have to have a brand that people know, trust and can connect with – that’s social media.”
Farming for the Fealys has been a challenge but they’ve taken to it with bucket loads of enthusiasm. The couple packed up their then three children – Jack, 10, Toby, 8, Lexi, 6 and (Kipp, 2, was born in Mareeba), from corporate careers in Brisbane for a 12 month journey around Australia.
They got as far as Broome, Western Australia, when they answered a call from Matt’s uncle to run the orchard which has 3000 mango trees, 2500 yielding Shepard avocados and 600 lime trees.
Despite family connections to farming – Matt’s grandfather was a well-known crop farmer on the southern Tablelands and Jess grew up on a dairyfarm at Malanda – they had little agricultural experience, the challenge made even more insurmountable with the orchard in a run down state.
It’s taken them three seasons to improve production, with this year’s avocado yield expected to triple to 15,000 trays.
Armed with fresh perspectives, the Fealys are open to embracing innovation and opportunities on their farming journey.
They are trialling a new avocado variety to capitalise on harvest windows, plan to maximise production in the orchard and tackle marketing of their produce.
“It’s been great,” Matt said. “It’s been an eye opener coming in as a consumer, seeing what’s involved and understanding what’s involved.”