Mitchell East Age 25, Manjimup, Western Australia

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Business Willarra Gold
Expertise Farmer/Grower
Crop Focus Tropical Fruits, Vegetable Production
Methods Permaculture and IPM - We work with what we’ve got with soil and health and nutrition

What is your favourite beneficial bug?
Bees - I am a hobby bee keeper. They are fascinating creatures and they play a huge part in food production. They are essential to the environment.

How do you feel about being nominated for the YGOTY award?
Genuinely surprised! It was unexpected that I would be recognised in this way. When I got the email, I thought they might have got me mixed up. That it could have been a mistake and I still don’t know who nominated me!

Why do you think it is important to honour young growers?
These awards can spark interest among other young people in the industry, helping showcase the good prospects and leadership opportunities in horticulture for the younger generation”. It’s a good encouragement for young people to continue to involve themselves in a growing and innovative industry.

What are the major challenges to young growers?
For young growers climate change is going to create major challenges for what has been moderately predictable growing conditions. The industry will need to develop more ambitious techniques to cope with harsher weather events and overall less rainfall. Hothouses will play an important role in the future of food production as water and chemical use can be limited, as well as controllable growing conditions which will speed up growing times and lengthen growing seasons to 12 months a year.

How are you using IPM
Creating a strong foundation for plant health is critical, healthy plant are less susceptible to pests and it can make it easier to manage pests if they become an issue. There are definitely harsher and lighter IPM options. We tend to go with the lighter options. Approaches vary dependent on the pest and we always vary depending on the case.

Have you ever sought advice from an agronomist for your farm?
Yes definitely. We liaise with agronomists regularly. We use private agronomist for avocados who gives us a year long, forecast based on soil and leaf analysis. This helps us build up an understanding of what the plant needs over time.
We’ve also been dealing with an agronomist for the last two years for our passionfruit.  I have learned a lot over this time and this extra knowledge means that I don’t have to ask so many questions and can be a lot more confident in my decisions.

Are you attending Hort Connections conference? Have you been before? What are you looking forward to?
Yes. I went to the Hort Connections conference last year and am going again this year. The Gala Dinner was the highlight last year. Farming is fairly solitary work, so events like Hort Connections are great opportunities to exchange ideas with like-minded people, network with interesting people and make new contacts.