Bold move leads to niche ginger operation

GOLDEN DREAM: Bunda Ginga owner Anthony Rehbein talks about diversifying his property, downscaling from 100ha to just three in order to produce niche local products.
GOLDEN DREAM: Bunda Ginga owner Anthony Rehbein talks about diversifying his property, downscaling from 100ha to just three in order to produce niche local products. Jim Alouat

BUNDABERG is a region known for great produce, from macadamias to sugar.

Anthony Rehbein and his wife, Kate, run Bunda Ginga, where they grow ginger and turmeric as well as many other kinds of produce.

In recent times, the family has downsized their property, swapping fields of red dirt for greenhouses, to begin a new way of growing their produce, which is picked by hand.


Bunda Ginga is well-known for growing ginger and turmeric but the farm also produces watermelons, tomatoes, eggplant and rockmelon.

Until about 18 months ago, the produce was grown in fields of rich, red dirt.

Now everything is grown through greenhouse operations on the family's 3ha property.

After downsizing from their 100ha property, Mr Rehbein said he produces less than what he did before.

"We were large-scale producers and we were struggling with supply and demand with the big supermarket chains,” he said.

Growing under greenhouse operations has allowed BundaGinga to completely turn around their control over the crops.

"We wanted to mitigate the risks of weather conditions, whether we were getting too much rain or not enough rain,” he said.

"We wanted to go back and remodel ourselves as small farmers and niche producers rather than large scale.”


Mr Rehbein is a fourth- generation farmer who has been growing different kindsof produce throughout his life.

"Growing up my family used to grow rockmelons and potatoes predominantly, as well as sugar cane,” he said.

After school, he went to university in Gatton in Southeast Queensland, where he studied an associate diploma in horticulture.

While studying, Mr Rehbein met his wife, Kate, who was studying a bachelor of business and tourism.

Mrs Rehbein is also heavily involved with Bunda Ginga looking after social media, branding and finance.

"She also looks after the books and administration, so she's an integral part of our operation,” he said.

The couple have three children.

"Lilly (16) is looking to study sustainable agriculture in Gatton,” Mr Rehbein said.

"My second eldest, Charlotte (14), is really focused on food and fibre ... and Angus (12) just wants to play cricket for Australia.”


Ginger takes about 12 months to grow, with planting in September and harvest in August.

"You only have one opportunity to grow it a year and one opportunity to harvest, so it is a very hard crop to grow” he said.

The Rehbein family keeps things traditional with harvest, with their produce being hand-picked.

"Everything is still hand-picked but with much less mechanisation,” he said.

"When you scale down your operation you still use machinery but there is less damage to your produce.”

There's also a lot more technology used under the greenhouses.

"We can log into our phones to operate the irrigation fertiliser, so we can do day-to-day management off our iPhones,” he said.

"Lilly works with me now on school holidays in the greenhouses so it is a real future for her.”


For close to two years, BundaGinga has been operating under greenhouse operations.

However this method of growing wasn't always the plan for the farm.

Mr Rehbein bought the greenhouses from a family acquaintance who was retiring and looking to sell the greenhouses.

"We've travelled the world and we've seen greenhouses in other countries,” he said.

"We feel in order for the customers to have great-eating, quality produce, the best way to go is to moveinto greenhouse production.”

Ginger is prone to diseases such as fusarium and growing it inside the greenhouses, above the ground, allows these risks to decrease.


Mr Rehbein started growing ginger 12 years ago.

Bunda Ginga has started selling ginger products, such as ginger powder and pickled ginger, that can be used for things such as cooking and drinks.

Their produce is sold to a wholesaler based in Melbourne and to customers by mail through their online store.


Mr Rehbein is passionate about local produce and is committed to locals in the Bundaberg area having access to farm-fresh produce, grown by a local farmer.

He has recently started up a new brand called One Little Farm.

"We are growing for the local community,” he said.

"So the people of Bundaberg will have a local farming producer where they can buy produce around town at local fruit and vegetable stores.”

The brand also deals a lot with local cafes and restaurants to supply them with farm-fresh produce.

"We supply them with produce like herbs, cauliflower, broccoli, tomatoes and eggplant,” Mr Rehbein said.

Topics:  anthony rehbein bundaberg bundaginga ginger niche operation

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