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A new leaf: Bundy farmers' rhubarb experiment

RHUBARB RHUBARB: Debbie Meiers with her trial crop of rhubarb outside Bundaberg.
RHUBARB RHUBARB: Debbie Meiers with her trial crop of rhubarb outside Bundaberg. Eliza Goetze

DEBBIE and Michael Meiers are a busy couple of farmers.

When they are not tending strawberries, they are raising seedlings for a host of growers across Queensland.

But Debbie has begun pouring her passion into a new experiment: the humble perennial, rhubarb.

At the Meiers' Meadowvale nursery, beyond the neat rows of seedlings, a half-acre patch of huge, wild leaves occupy a corner near the packing shed.

Like many new farming projects the crop started out as a happy accident.

"It's grown in the strawberry block for the last couple of years,” Debbie explained.

"We planted it there for ourselves and the next thing you know is...it's still alive, and it's still growing.”

She was also buoyed by the success of a client.

"We grow rhubarb (seedlings) for one of our customers in Mundubbera and because it's working out there for him, we thought well, we'll try and get it working out here as well.

"We're just seeing how it goes.”

HOW SWEET IT IS: Strawberry picker Amanda Hambergh with her latest haul at Ambrosia Plantations, Meadowvale.
HOW SWEET IT IS: Strawberry picker Amanda Hambergh with her latest haul at Ambrosia Plantations, Meadowvale. Eliza Goetze

Rhubarb is not commonly grown around Bundaberg.

"People always talk cool (climate) and not too much water,” Mrs Meiers said.

"Winter is definitely the time for it.

"We're in communication with a rhubarb grower in Tasmania, of all places; he used to grow rhubarb on the Tamborine Mountain.”

Rhubarb can be stewed, poached, roasted or pureed, thrown into pies or jam.

Just don't consume the leaves - they are poisonous.

At the Meiers it goes well as a classic crumble.

"We throw together rhubarb, strawberries and apple,” Mrs Meiers said.

"To make the crumble we just crumble up Anzac biscuits, mix some melted butter through and sprinkle it on top.”

The Meiers will be selling the rhubarb at their Bargara Berries shop on Hughes Rd and their stall at Shalom Markets in Bundaberg each Sunday morning.

Find out more or let them know what you think at www.facebook.com/bargara

berries.

BABIES: Debbie Meiers with seedlings at Meadowvale Seedling Nursery.
BABIES: Debbie Meiers with seedlings at Meadowvale Seedling Nursery. Eliza Goetze

SEEDLING SEASON

STRAWBERRIES and rhubarb are relatively new for the Meiers. They have been growing seedlings for a dozens of growers across Queensland for the last 33 years under the name Meadowvale Seedling Nursery.

A machine that uses suction to hold seeds the size of a pinhead in position loads around 3,000 of them into small pots of soil in just a couple of minutes.

They run everything from lettuce to eggplant and rhubarb to celeriac, for growers from the Wide Bay and as far afield as Bowen.

Exotic eggplant varieties, many Indian, are becoming more popular, Mrs Meiers said, spurred by trends from the country's top kitchens to multicultural communities.

But not much has changed, she said - after three decades, they've got it down to a fine art.

Wild weather during ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie ripped the plastic covers off a plot of seedlings earlier this year, wiping out a number of plots - but the weather lately has them back on track.

Topics:  agriculture farming rural weekly seedlings women in agriculture



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