As his cane fields went up in flames for the final time, Mackay councillor Laurence Bonaventura reflected on 82 years of his family’s farming legacy.

“It’s a bit of a sad occasion, but it’s about knowing when is a good time, and I believe this is the time to finish cane growing,” Cr Bonaventura said.

As a councillor for the Mackay region, he has decided to retire as a farmer and focus full-time on his other commitments.

Cr Bonaventura’s family arrived in Australia in 1914 by recommendation of a relative, who said there was “good money in the sugar industry, as long as you’re prepared to work hard”.

His grandfather and father bought several neighbouring blocks, where they cleared land, planted cane and expanded their production.

Over the years, the Bonaventuras have witnessed big changes in the industry.

“When my grandfather came out and started cutting cane, it was originally green, then burning cane became popular,” Cr Bonaventura said.

“So then we went to burnt cane, first cut by hand and then by harvester.”

“Then in the 1980s and 1990s we went from burnt cane back to green cane harvesting with modern machinery.”

Celebrating the last harvest

To celebrate the momentous occasion, Cr Bonaventura decided to invite friends and family to witness one final cane fire before harvesting the crop.Celebrating 75 yearsCelebrating 75 years of Rural reporting.Read more

“I was overwhelmed by the response of people who came,” he said.

“To have those people share the final event with me, and go down the next day to watch the harvester cut that final bit of cane, it helps with that changeover.”

While the Bonaventuras will no longer grow cane on the block, the country is now being leased and will continue to supply cane to the local mill.

“I think I’m doing my father proud that the land he cleared will continue to supply cane to the mill,” Cr Bonaventura said.

“It was very emotional, not so much on the day because I had plenty of friends around to keep my spirits up.

“But the next morning I must admit I did shed a tear.”

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