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Former President of the Clarence Valley Cane Growers Association and NSW Cane Growers Council Vince Castle, his cousin and former cane cutter Jim Castle and Woodford Island cane farmer Alister McFarlane, all attended the morning tea at the Harwood Hall on May 15, which united and reunited many people involved in the sugar cane industry. Image: Emma Pritchard.

Sweet reunion for sugar cane cutters in Harwood

Emma Pritchard

Lifelong mateships forged on the cane fields throughout the Clarence Valley united more than 60 members of our local sugar cane industry at a special morning tea at Harwood Hall on May 15.

Past and present employees including several cane cutters, current sugar cane farmers and industry officials, passionately and proudly shared their stories of days gone by and what it meant to be a part of one of the biggest industries in Northern NSW.

Historical photos and original cane knives displayed in the Harwood Hall, stirred emotional memories and a video showing several scenes of cane cutters working hard in the fields paid tribute to the many men who helped make our sugar cane industry the rich business it is today.

Local man Jim Castle, who started working as a cane cutter when he was 17, attended the morning tea and happily spoke of his fondest memories as an industry employee and cane gang member.

“There were six or seven blokes per gang, and you all worked extremely hard alongside one other in all kinds of conditions during the cane cutting season,” he recalled.

“I worked with a great mob of blokes.

“On average, each man would cut 20 tonne of cane per day, then you’d finish work, go to the pub together on Friday arvo and all the cane gangs would argue about which one was the best.

“I loved working as a cane cutter in the Clarence Valley because it was an exciting job, you’d work on different properties cutting cane, and you made some great mates along the way.”

As he cast his eyes across the room, President of the Clarence Valley Cane Growers Association and Maclean cane farmer Ross Farlow said he was in awe of the men, and the women behind them, who have contributed so much to the sugar cane industry.

His words were echoed by his predecessor Vince Castle, who said the gathering was a wonderful day for everyone associated with the sugar cane industry.

“I cut sugar cane for over 20 seasons and seeing so many people at the event was truly wonderful because the sugar cane industry and all the people who have worked so hard to make it what it is need to be recognised.”