Sugar-change’ shift a sweet success
Born and raised on a property in New England, Peter Heagney had long pondered sugar cane farming in northern NSW. After selling land at Guyra and encouragement from wife Emma, the couple began to look closer at the cane industry as both an investment and lifestyle opportunity.
It was on holidays in coastal Ballina when Peter and Emma saw opportunities for their young family in not just agriculture and community, but also the educational, sporting and recreational facilities, with easy access to other major centres. And so the Richmond Valley became the centre of their search for a cane farming investment and family home.
While looking at properties in the area, their resolve firmed to invest in the cane industry when a local farmer proudly confided “the NSW sugar industry is this state’s best-kept agricultural secret”. With demand for agricultural ground in the Northern Rivers from the both thriving cane industry plus lifestyle and horticultural investors, the Heagneys worked quickly with local agents and their bank to secure their first two properties in 2015. These farms, with potential for immediate returns through both harvest-ready crops and existing rental income, were fully- productive properties worked under formal share- farming agreements. The Heagney’s third property, purchased in 2016, offered even more value with larger acreage, a renovated home and adjoining industrial facility under long-term lease with a local concrete fence post manufacturer.
The family now calls the larger property home amongst cane fields being farmed and improved under a lease with the local sugar mill, owned by Sunshine Sugar. And while “going to the beach and fishing in the river” is what eldest son Ryan likes most about the NSW north coast, all three children have settled into schools and local sports.
Their contented lifestyle is further supported by the structure of the local sugar industry. Sunshine Sugar helps the family manage their share-farming arrangements, using established processes. The milling group also manages distribution of crop payments to both owner and share-farmer, with a reliable track record securing the confidence and praise of inland cattle graziers-turned-coastal cane farmers.