Growing sweet corn in the desert is a risky business, but Trandos Farms has been sending truckloads to Perth for the past five months from its winter base on Shelamar Station, 205km south of Broome.

Operator Jim Trandos said his family had set up one of the most remote farms on the planet.

“When we started seven years ago, it was like digging a big hole in the ground and throwing in a heap of money, ” he said.

“It was a relatively unknown venture, but we had to do it to get consistent year-round supply … we are the first company to grow sweetcorn commercially in the red pindan soil of the west Kimberley.”

Trandos Farms has become the State’s biggest producer of sweet corn and beans on the pioneering spirit of Mr Trandos’ grandfather Dimitrios, who emigrated from Greece in 1939 and started growing tomatoes, cabbage and lettuce on a small plot of leased land in Pappas Swamp, now Lake Neerabup, in Wanneroo.

The business, which also has farms in Wanneroo and Gingin, marks its 75th anniversary this year as the fourth generation expands production and processing across three locations more than 2200km apart.

The initiative saw Mr Trandos take out the 2010 Ausveg Grower of the Year award, which he described as a team effort with his brother Arthur running the Gingin and Broome farms and his cousin Michael looking after the Wanneroo farm and transport.

Mr Trandos takes care of processing, packaging and marketing.

His uncle Steve runs Trandos Chicken Farm as part of the family’s diversification strategy, which includes Trandos Beef and Trandos Hydroponics — the biggest hydroponic grower in WA — owned by Mr Trandos’ uncle Harry and cousins Danny, Jamie and Steven.

“It is a huge advantage to live in WA where we can produce summer crops in the middle of winter in a different part of the State, ” Mr Trandos said.

Trandos Farms bought 8000ha Shelamar in 2008 with Northern Territory-based Roper River Agriculture, which grows melons on one half of the holding.

Corn is mechanically harvested at night or daybreak, cooled and transported to the family’s processing and packing operation in Wanneroo within 20 hours.

The company supplies major supermarkets in WA and interstate and sends three consignments of sweet corn to Dubai every week.

“We’ve scaled right back … to focus on mainly beans and sweetcorn, which can be mechanically harvested, ” Mr Trandos said.

“We’ve done it out of necessity because we couldn’t get people who wanted to pick vegetables.

“It was particularly tough during the mining boom, but now we are getting inquiries from plant operators who have returned to Perth and are looking for work.”


© The West Australian

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