by Eliza Goetze
GROWING OUR FUTURE
ON FRIDAY Mason Barbera will be racing in not one but two classes at Phillip Island. He's nervous about jumping between Supercars and V8 utes - but a transition he does with no hassle is between the race track and his Bundaberg family farm.
"I grew up running around on the farm. I was driving around in a HiLux by the age of nine. It was awesome.
My nunu, my father's father, came here 60 years ago and started tobacco farming like every Italian who came here.
My dad started out growing watermelons and built this place (Barbera Farms).
All my mates have moved to Brisbane or the Sunshine Coast; I can spend a week in Brisbane and I can't handle it.
Farm life, and life in Bundaberg especially, you can't beat it.
There's not many young people who want to be farmers because they see the hits we take. I have a big group of friends and none of them wants to be a farmer.
In my dad's era, everyone was a farmer.
In 15 years when these old farmers are retiring, who's going grow our food?
I love it. There's nothing better than planting something and 12 weeks later you're picking it. It's the best feeling in the world.
I have a lot of help from my uncle Robbie and I'm starting to slowly learn about growing.
I look after the marketing side of things full time but I ventured out in 2015 and did my first ever crop of watermelons (separate to the family business as Mason Barbera Produce).
This year I'm doing beans and green capsicums too.
It was scary because I was only 17 or 18. It was hard to get respect from the agents but a lot of people have taken me under their wing.
The watermelons took a big hit from Cyclone Debbie, but the capsicums will help us through; that's being a farmer.
The racing started when I was about 7. Dad took us karting, that was a real father-son thing.
I'm a lot luckier than most 19-year-olds, I've had a really good run the last few years. But it is hard to juggle.
Being a farmer is 24/7 - I'm at races on the phone trying to run things, calling agents and organising picking, and you're 2,000km away.
People say 'You're doing too much', but I'm 19; why not? Hopefully when I'm 55 or 60 I can ease back a bit.
I get bored if nothing's going on; I go away and I get a break from the farming side of things and by the end of the weekend, I need to come back to this after a race meeting.
At a race meeting it's all cameras and lights and fans and people wanting to talk; it's awesome, but by Sunday you're like, 'Take me back to the farm, I just want to drive around and check my crops'.
At the end of the day, I want my farming to be my main source of business and income, and I want racing to always stay as my passion.
I think farming has a great future. With not many other young farmers, I see it as an opportunity.
There might not be many farmers around in 25 years' time, so why not be a big one?”