Tablelands Agriculture

a tea plantation on the Atherton Tablelands
A tea plantation on the Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia.

Deep, fertile volcanic soils, warm year - round temperatures, reliable rainfall, and irrigation schemes, have combined to make agriculture the main economic activity of the Atherton Tablelands.

Dairy cattle graze the high rainfall southeastern region around Millaa Millaa and Malanda. Malanda is the site of the Malanda Milk Factory, and Mungali Milk produces organic, biodynamic dairy products near Millaa Millaa.

Atherton is surrounded by sugar cane, maize, potato, peanuts, and avocado and macadamia orchards.

Between Atherton and Mareeba is the crop land of the Mareeba - Dimbulah Irrigation Project. Lake Tinarroo is formed by a dam that catches water at the high rainfall end of Tablelands. A network of Irrigation channels transports this water north west to the more arid but fertile plain of the Mareeba and Dimbulah district.

avocados being harvested on the Atherton Tablelands
Harvesting Avocados near Atherton. Travelers sometimes work in one of the tableland's many agricultural industries before taking the next step in their journey.

One of the main crops around Mareeba is Mango. There are also many banana plantations, avocado orchards and citrus producers. Tobacco was once a staple crop in the district and the tobacco barns make an interesting sight in the countryside with their interesting designs and paintwork. Coffee and pineapple plantations and many varieties of citrus exist along with tropical fruits of every variety.

Mareeba is a major node for the transport of beef cattle from Cape York Peninsular and the northern Gulf of Carpentaria. Beef cattle are trucked in to the Mareeba sale yards and transported by rail to southern and international markets.

Seasonal Farm Work

Crop harvesting has always attracted thousands of seasonal workers to the area. Today, many people come from abroad on working holiday visas to work on Tableland farms. Working holiday visas allow people between the ages of 18-31 to work for one year, and for a single employer up to 6 months. Completing 3 months of rural work, makes a working visa holder eligible for a further one year extension of the working visa.

Many farms offer on-farm accommodation. There are also specialist accommodation providers who help their guests find work on local farms, and also provide transport to an from the farms.

Harvest Seasons

For more information on Working Holiday visas, including online application: Australian Government Department of Immigration.

map of Cairns, Atherton Tablelands and Tropical Outback
Click to enlarge