Gallagher Family - Innisfail | Rabobank Australia Client
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The Gallagher Family, Innisfail


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The path that Pat Gallagher took to become patriarch of one of the biggest family-owned banana operations in Australia is not your traditional one.

While agriculture in Australia is often a story of generational growth and inheritance, Pat single-mindedly pursued his ambition to farm bananas in North Queensland by first spending 14 years working in mining in Mt Isa. The Gallagher family have now been farming bananas for almost 50 years but it was ANZAC day in 1967 that Pat was finally able to finish at the mine and, together with his wife Patricia, take his young family east in search of a block to start farming.

Pat’s three sons, Michael, Robert and Mark, now run operations at Wadda Plantation, situated on the banks of the North Johnstone River, 25km north of Innisfail. Youngest son, Mark, said it was his father’s commitment to finding the right country and water supply that brought them to their current location.

“The original block was 77 hectares and while it had never been planted to bananas its river frontage and fertile flats made it an ideal location,” he said.

Working with the environment

Sustainable farming has always been a key focus for the Gallagher family and from the very beginning they began implementing practices that complemented the environment. “In those days it was still the practice that banana plantations would have soil as bare as bitumen,” Mark said.

“It’s our practice to allow native grasses and weeds to grow under the banana canopies and to simply slash back where our tractor runs are, providing additional mulch for the trees. The added bonus of maintaining grass cover is that it helps retain our soil profile and prevent runoff and erosion.”

“When we first took on the farm, there was a lot of country that was cleared that should never have been cleared."
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The Gallagher family also take very seriously their role as custodians for the six kilometres of the North Johnstone River that Wadda Plantation now occupies. “We have implemented contouring to try and direct the flow of water in rain events and this is complemented by our use of grassed headlands and riparian vegetation,” Mark said.

“We’ve replanted along rivers, creeks and gullies to improve and stabilise the environment in those areas.” Unfortunately their efforts continue to be hampered by the ever increasing feral pig population.

“The damage that is done by pigs is a big issue,” Mark said. “As quickly as we’re grassing and revegetating areas pigs are coming and destroying these improvements and contributing to river bank erosion. “The only way we’ll get on top of the pig problem is through large-scale government intervention and funding.”

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Growing the family business

Since the original purchase of 77 hectares the Gallagher family has gradually purchased neighbouring properties as they have become available. The Plantation now occupies 800 hectares of land, almost half of which is planted to bananas. It was during an acquisition that the Gallaghers first came on board with Rabobank almost 20 years ago. Mark said it was the Bank’s agility that really worked for them.

“At the time there was a neighbouring property that we really wanted but time was short,” Mark said.

“Rabobank was able to assist us more quickly than the bank we were currently with, their response time meant we were able to get all the authorities in place and meet the tight deadline.”

Two decades later and the Gallaghers continue to be content Rabobank customers. “We’ve always found Rabobank to be supportive and considerate of what we’re trying to do,” Mark said.

“It’s a good culture that they seem to have, even to the point that if you can’t get someone in branch and you end up at the Sydney head office, the customer service team there still seem like they know you.”

“If you’re not changing and innovating you will be left behind, so you better be the one doing something.”

While Pat Gallagher has handed over the reins of the business to his sons, he still remains heavily involved with his beloved Wadda Plantation. It would also seem that the apple (or banana) doesn’t fall too far from the tree when looking at his sons’ focus on continuing to evolve and grow their business.

“It’s all about constant evolution no matter what business you’re in,” Mark said.

“Something changes in your business and industry today whether you know it or not.

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