Image: Tony & Debbie, Crystal Creek Bananas
Have you met Tony, the happiest banana seller at the Jan Powers Farmers Market? If not, you had better introduce yourself quick smart as Tony will be selling his last banana in June and moving on to pastures new.
Tony started growing bananas in Northern New South Wales some 35 years ago, and has been a regular feature at farmers markets for nearly 25 years. Although he will miss his regular chats, he is happily looking forward to no more early morning rises to drive up from the farm at Crystal Creek Bananas in the Tweed Valley.
Originally from Newcastle, Tony’s family moved from a wrecking business to the Tweed Valley when he was 21. They bought a property in Mullumbimby living close by and farming a few days at a time. Selling up, Tony and his wife Debbie focused on farming bananas in Terranora before taking over the farm in Crystal Creek. Specialising in growing sweet Lady Finger bananas, they also farm Hass avocados on the property.
“Bananas are a year-round production” says Tony “with a regular supply a few months after planting. They react to different slopes and at different times of the year. You get to know the land, the highs and lows. The last 8-9 years has seen the weather being ‘all over the shop’ with an unexpected summer drought producing a 50% reduction in crop”. “Floods are fixable” he adds matter of factly, “as it affects mainly infrastructure”. COVID was fine until complicated border passes added to the dramas of being ready for the 6am start to the Saturday markets in Manly and Wednesday in the City.
Tonys typical 6-7 day working week for a Saturday market is to harvest yellow bananas on a Wednesday and green bananas on the Friday. It’s a 1.30am wake up call for the two-hour drive – in good weather – to Manly, setting up by 4.30am in Little Bayside Park. Once the market finishes at noon he packs up and is back at Crystal Creek by 3pm- weather and traffic permitting. Sunday has him up picking bananas ready for the City Farmers Markets where Debbie and his son have an even longer day to 6pm.
Tony is looking forward to some well-earned lie ins with time to explore places with Debbie and to fully recover from a recent farm accident that laid him low for several weeks. He also plans to help with his son’s real estate business.
Tony and Debbie love the Manly Harbour Village Jan Powers Farmers Markets. “We enjoy dealing directly with our customers, some 80% are regulars who over many years have been super friendly. The Markets manager, Andrew, has also been “a great supporter”
“We take pride in everything we do” is his motto. That certainly is true. Despite the early mornings, the long days, the floods, the drought, COVID restrictions and his accident, Tony’s cheery nature and happy smile has always shone through.
Look out for Tony and Debbie on their next visits to Manly Harbour Village, when they visit to relax and enjoy the lovely bayside as ‘tourists’.