DARING to enter the farming industry is a tough step for any woman but with the support of her loving husband and family one Granite Belt woman did just that.
With no previous farming experience, Maria Ponzo took to the land almost 30 years ago and has been there ever since, farming apricots, nectarines, peaches and table grapes.
"At first it was a huge step but I got used to it," she said.
"It really didn't take me too long to get used to, but I suppose it took a couple of years with Lui's help and I have really enjoyed it over the years though," Mrs Ponzo said.
Watching their Glen Aplin stone fruit property go in leaps and bounds she admits it was a team effort.
"Lui would always be out in the field while I would run the packing shed," she said.
"We are on 80 acres and 50 of it was farming at our peak.
"We would start at 4am and work until dark seven days a week."
With several stone fruits on the go over the years, Mrs Ponzo said apricots were always their most successful.
"They are a specialised stone fruit and we were lucky we had the right aspects on our property for growing them," she said.
"We were never able to grow them down near the house but could in the corner near the hill.
"Apricots were really good money back when we started because they were a niche market."
With a farming background of his own, Lui Ponzo knew the importance of Maria's involvement.
"I believe it is hard for a young fellow to make it in farming without the support and help of his wife," he said.
"That's why we don't see many young farmers these days. Having Maria's help over the years has meant that I could work out in the field and not have to worry about the packing shed or the books."
Like all farmers the two faced many challenges.
"In the beginning, while our fruit trees were still young,we also grew tomatoes to get extra income," Mrs Ponzo said.
Other challenges encountered by the fruit farming duo were often a result of Mother Nature. "Frosts and hail storms were two big ones," Mrs Ponzo said. "If we got really bad frosts they would burn the flowers and we wouldn't get fruit that time around. To combat that we would run the frost irrigation all night but the bigger challenge came during the drought when we couldn't.
"All we could do was just cross our fingers and hope for the best.
Despite the trials of farming, Mrs Ponzo said there was one standout reward when it came to their career choice.
"The most rewarding part was being able to be home with the children," she said.
"When they were babies I would have them asleep in the cot and race down to the packing shed to work and just kept checking on them.
"And when they were awake they were happy to be outside with us. Now Dianna is 32 and a prep teacher in Brisbane and Steven is 30, a boilermaker who contracts to mines near Collinsville from Airlie Beach."
With the lure of retirement on their minds, Mrs Ponzo said the decision to gradually downsize was two-fold.
"Now there is so much imported fruit that the prices just aren't there anymore," she said. So we made the choice to step back, start to downsize and move closer to retirement. Now we have 10 acres of stone fruit and eight to nine acres of table grapes."