A PASSION for the land has seen fifth-generation farmer Jon Knight successfully develop his family's horticultural business and diversify to beef cattle over the past five years.
Mr Knight and his wife Mariko, who have a one-year-old son Leo, have developed a direct market for their mangoes and citrus fruits and applied a regenerative grazing system to improve their pastures and soil health, which will assist in improving their cattle operation.
With 112 hectares in the foothills of the Darling Range in Harvey, the Knights specialise in growing 250 Kensington Pride mango trees, 1200 Late Lane Navel orange trees, 800 Imperial mandarin trees and have more recently been developing a self-replacing Angus herd.
Jon said his late grandfather Len purchased the property from his uncle in the late 1940s and further developed the farm into a dairy, beef and citrus operation.
"When I was growing up the farm was producing citrus and sheep and my grandad planted the mango orchard 16 years ago," Jon said.
"Farming was always in my blood, however I chose to pursue university studies and ended up graduating with a degree in psychology."
Working in a corporate training role for a mining company after graduating wasn't Jon's passion, which led him to take some time off to travel.
He travelled to France and the United Kingdom where he spent time 'WWOOFing' (World Wide Opportunities On Organic Farms) as a volunteer on sustainable and organic farms in exchange for food and accommodation.
He really began to appreciate farming and the wholesome lifestyle it provided.
"I really loved it and started to ponder on the idea of pursuing some sort of farming venture on the family farm when I returned home, though I did question whether and how I would be able to make a living from it," Jon said.
In 2014 he returned to the farm to help his aunt manage the horticultural business, particularly the harvesting and marketing of their mangoes which reached peak production that year.
It was during this time that Jon began developing direct marketing strategies for their high quality, fresh produce.
Before long he was leasing the family farm and developing the farm business, Gibbs Creek Grove, which now supplies farm-direct mangoes, oranges and mandarins to the South West and Perth.
"It was difficult for me to foresee business success if we solely marketed our fruit through the conventional commodity channels, so I started exploring ways of direct marketing, mainly through farmers markets," Jon said.
Today, with his parents help, he sells his produce at the Mt Claremont, Subiaco and Manning farmers markets every Saturday for eight months of the year when the fruit is in season.
Jon said although the horticultural business was the core of his enterprise, he had always enjoyed livestock and looks forward to the future in beef cattle.
In 2017 he purchased 30 Angus heifers at 12 months-of-age from a well-known producer in Waroona.
Based on Koojan Hills bloodlines, Jon said they were productive females achieving a 90 per cent calving rate in June last year.
"Prior to purchasing the females, I was advised by beef producers and my agent that the Angus breed was a sensible option and after doing my own research I recognised the benefits of their productivity, marketability, genetics and eating qualities," he said.
"I began learning about regenerative grazing management and was fascinated by the concept that you could enhance pasture diversity, soil health, animal health and production purely by carefully managing the grazing movements of your herd."
Jon applied for a Regenerative Agriculture Landowner Grant through the Peel-Harvey Catchment Council and was fortunate to get allocated some of the funding to purchase products from the New Zealand based company KiwiTech, which specialises in hardware for sustainable, intensive grazing systems.
He said the KiwiTech PowerPac, electric fencing range and portable water troughs were implemented into his farming practise in early 2018 and he couldn't recommend them highly enough.
"Depending on the time of year I will move the herd onto fresh pasture every one of five days, with the daily moves occurring during the peak pasture growth in spring," he said.
"The PowerPac poly wire system and lightweight portable troughs provide me with the flexibility to easily control cell size and therefore the cattle's impact on the pasture and soil."
With the assistance of Elders Waroona representative Michael Longford, Jon sold his 11 Angus grassfed steers at 12-months through the Boyanup saleyards in May.
Sired by a Sheron Farm bull they averaged 292 kilograms and returned 270 cents a kilogram and $790.
"I'm confident that I am building a more sustainable production system and that as I refine my grazing and breeding program, the profitability of my beef herd will follow," he said.
Focused on building his herd size to about 80 Angus breeders in the next five years, Jon would like to reach a point where he was producing a high quality grassfed beef product.
"Ideally I would like to direct market our beef one day," he said.
"I am conscious of the added challenges involved with processing and marketing a fresh beef product as compared to a mango or orange.
"Nonetheless, I am optimistic there will come a time when the whole picture comes together and I will be in a position to give it a crack."
For now, Jon is focused on growing his herd and refining his farming practices to achieve a low input high-quality beef production system which will benefit him and his young family into the future.