Duranbah's Bob is surrounded by the fruits of his labour
DURANBAH farmer Bob Brinsmead is surrounded by the fruits of his labour.
Forty-five years ago, he bought a property that held treasured memories for him and now the tourist attraction he built from scratch, Tropical Fruit World, draws 70,000 visitors a year to its gate - half of them from overseas - and probably contains more varieties of fruit on one farm than anywhere else.
As an unassuming achiever, creator and visionary, Bob's main ambition has always been to grow the best product.
"We were farming the fruit orchard for about 10 years, then it got to the stage when it was sufficiently interesting to open to visitors,” Bob said.
"It had all the basic tropical fruits plus a few more.
"After that, I continued to collect fruit from all over the world.
"We're always looking at anything new that comes along, it may even be a sub-species.
"When I started, there was a great interest in the Rare Fruit Council.
"I did some collections out in the Pacific in pretty rare places. I've collected fruit from the Philippines. Sometimes it's a matter of collecting a better species or variety.”
Bob is a third-generation farmer, brought up on the land.
"When I was going to school, we were involved with my father growing bananas,” he said.
"The original owners of the Duranbah land were the O'Keefe family.
"About 1939, the NSW Department of Agriculture opened a place for research, primarily for banana research.
"They provided a remarkable educational facility.
"They helped to found the banana industry, and the Tweed was the banana capital of Australia.
"When I was 12, they had field days and I came to those. They imported avocado trees already grafted from California.
"I tasted my first avocado here, and then they had macadamia nuts and Chinese lychees and a few mango, which seemed to do well here.
"My roots go back a very long way on this property.
"(The year) 1946 was the height of its glory. It was like a little Garden of Eden.”
The research facility was closed in 1967 and five years later, when Bob was living in Burringbar, the farm came up for sale.
"That experimental plot had disappeared and the owner was running cows,” Bob said.
"I had such a great memory of this property.”
Bob and his wife Val became the proud owners of the several acres that Tropical Fruit World now thrives on.
Produce from their orchards is sold in Sydney and Melbourne.
Farm management consultant Bruce Fleming taught at university for most of his life, in the areas of environmental health, science and sustainability.
"Tropical Fruit World is a real farm that works well and employs 35 people,” he said.
"I've known the family for 40 years. They came and asked me if I'd give them some assistance. They wanted me to instil a culture of looking after the place.
"We've got 175 acres (65 hectares). About two-thirds is under crop, there's a lot of forest and there's waterways.
"We're not clearing any new areas but some crops need replacing.”
Some 500 varieties of fruit grow on the farm, including 15 different varieties of avocado and 10 varieties of bananas.
Visitors come from all over Australia and across the world, with the Chinese tourists most numerous at the moment.
"The other big group is from the Middle East. They come here in the height of their summer and they love the greenery and buy a lot of product,” Bruce said.
"Visitors get fruit-tasting, a farm tour, a gift shop, fauna park and a ride on the 'water dragon' that goes on to an island, and we've got a miniature rail at times.”
Plantation House is the farm restaurant and function centre.
"We've spent the last couple of years renovating it,” Bruce says.
"We're going to open on Sunday lunch for restaurant meals.”
That's an amazing place to dine, with spectacular views over the Tweed Valley.
Tropical Fruit World can be found at 29 Duranbah Rd, Duranbah.
It's closed only one day a year, Christmas Day.
Seniors living from the Gold Coast to Byron pay half price entry - $19.
Details on the website www.tropicalfruitworld.com.au/.