WHEN it comes to the unique taste and smell of the papaw, Italian tourist Genny Mazzoni loves it.
From a strawberry farm to a papaw farm, Ms Mazzoni has spent more than a year in the region on a working holiday visa.
Last week she received her 457 visa to stay longer.
The farming families and the family she lives with in South Mackay have become her second family.
She and her boyfriend left their home in central Italy and were looking for a place where they could learn more English.
After researching, they found Mackay and the Mackay Language College where she spent three months learning English before taking part in the AgriTourism program.
This week she was elbows deep in picking papaws, which are ripe and in season.
She said she preferred to pick papaws over strawberries.
"I enjoy being in a rural setting. I come from the country,'' she said.
"I am not shy of hard work.
"I do eat papaws; I don't mind them. Only the yellow ones are ripe at the moment; still waiting for the red papaws."
Since living and working in the region she has spent her downtime in Mackay, only venturing south to Melbourne.
"It is not so different to my own country, it is what you make home really,'' she said.
"Because I have spent much of my time in rural places I have learnt a lot about everyday life.
"I have found the people beautiful, which is the most amazing thing.
"Mackay isn't too big, it's quiet and the weather is perfect too."
Mackay Language College principal Leigh Morgan said the AgriTourism program had been running since 2009 and the relationship between the program and farms had grown.
She said tourists had been working at strawberry farms in the region, organic banana farmers in Cameron's Pocket and Camilleri's Fruit Shop and papaw farm at Hay Point.
"This means we can offer the program to backpackers all year, rather than only during the strawberry season.''
This year more than 20 tourists have taken part.
The number has increased since previous years with more Italian, Korean and Japanese tourists.
"Usually they are interested in working holidays but are nervous with their limited English."
She said that was why many were recommended to learn English at the college for three months and work on farms in the countryside to make use of their English.
"They love to experience real Australian culture and are happy to live and work on the land in Mackay.
"They really appreciate the rural surrounds and love that they can see the stars in the night sky."
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