It’s a farmer’s life for Bruce

Tina and Bruce McPherson at the Winterfeast Farmers Markets. Credit: Paul Beutel.
Tina and Bruce McPherson at the Winterfeast Farmers Markets. Credit: Paul Beutel.

The name Tinaberries is well known in the Bundaberg Region.

Husband and wife team Bruce and Tina McPherson are “niche growers” producing strawberries and passionfruit on their Coral Cove farm.

But how did the McPherson family land here?

Bruce said the region ticked all of their boxes.

“Tina wanted a beach house, I wanted a farm so we bought a farm by the sea,” Bruce said.

They decided that farming, coupled with the lifestyle offered in the region, made it the perfect place to raise their young family.

“We came here for a way of life. We decided we wanted to bring the children up where we were both home most of the time.

“That's what we're grateful for each day. We don't travel to work, we don't get stuck in traffic or crush out excel sheets.

“I can do all of that stuff but it drives you nuts.”

Life on the land

It would be fair to say that Bruce has farming in his veins.

He grew up on a dairy farm in New Zealand and his pursuit of farming became embedded.

Tinaberries farmer Bruce McPherson with his trellised passionfruit vines.
Tinaberries farmer Bruce McPherson with his trellised passionfruit vines.

Bruce went on to study agriculture at university and then “went farming”.

Forays into corporate agriculture sent Bruce and Tina all over the world managing dairy operations.

Given New Zealand’s reputation in dairy farming standards Bruce said it was a “very specialised” field.

After stints in Uruguay, South America and Indonesia, Bruce was contracted to project manage the construction of a 10,000-cow feedlot in China.

“It was one of the first feedlots built in China,” he said.

Although these positions saw the couple managing major operations Bruce said all of their jobs had been “hands on”.

“You lived on the farm running staff, organising, moving, shaking,” he said.

“It wasn't just agronomics it was managing the culture. In Indonesia we had 600 staff.”

Love blossoms in fruitful career

Eventually Bruce said they had enough of working for other people and made the decision to establish their Bundaberg Region farm.

The farm they purchased was all in cane but they chose to farm strawberries and passionfruit as they felt they were more economically viable crops.

Bruce said it was a true partnership.

“Both of us are a team. We always said we'd be happy farming anything,” he said.

“We enjoy working together.”

He said while it was never his intention to name the business after his wife of 25 years – the name Tinaberries just rolled off the tongue one day – and it stuck.

“We thrashed around a few names and for some reason it just went.”

He takes care of the more technical side of the farm while Tina describes her role as “smiles and colours”.

But Bruce said Tina kept the wheels of the business turning.

“I'd be buggered without her.”

Science in agriculture

“My day will consist of understanding chemistry, why things are or aren't happening,” he said.

Dealing with the complexities of growing, Bruce feels more like a chemist than a farmer at times.

“To get stuff to a sugar level of such and such or a size of such and such you don't just throw it in the ground,” he said.

He likes to use a cooking analogy. If the same 10 people had the same recipe and ingredients and were asked to cook Anzac biscuits, all 10 would produce a different outcome.

“We've all got our secret ingredient,” he said.

Growing up on a dairy farm, Bruce has developed his growing philosophy around building a strong foundation for plant success.

“If you give your kids a balanced diet they will grow up strong, happy and healthy.

“Then you give them a safe place to live and shelter, that child will more than likely flourish.

“Having a plant or a calf is no different.”