The Dicky Bill carton is one that I have had since I started collecting fruit cartons. It is an atypical carton, with a simple, cute echidna giving the thumbs up. I had always thought that Dicky Bill was the echidna’s name, however it is the abbreviated nickname of the late Richard William Barnard, a 3rd generation lettuce farmer whose farming legacy lives on through his son, Ryan McLeod and business partner Hugh Reardon. Dicky Bill now specialises in salad (mesclun, spinach and wild rocket).
The Dicky Bill echidna was a free hand sketch by the son of a former admin staff member at the farm. They were after something quintessentially Australian that wasn’t a kangaroo or koala and so the echidna got the nod. It was then given to an artist, Camille Giacca at Orora to be enhanced and made into a printable form. I’d met Camille some time before on a visit to the Art Department at Orora – the subject of an earlier blog – prior to any communication with the Dicky Bill folks, who oddly enough were telling me the story for the second time (albeit in much greater detail). In many cases the design for a carton is done by the art department with input from the farmer, and artwork provided for a carton by the farmer is not that common. However despite its character not being entirely of her own creation, Camille declares the Dicky Bill carton as one of her favourites.
Camille spotted the carton after I had posted it on the Cartonographer Instagram page. Farmers tend not to have a presence on the web. Dicky Bill is an exception in this regard; I was contacted by Tahirih via the same post, up until which time I was followed by only one other fruit farmer. They also have the Dicky Bill Facebook page, where you can find a lot of information about the farm including some great little videos and photographs.
The Dicky Bill carton is actually from two places in Australia: Gin Gin in Queensland, and Maffra in Victoria. The Queensland property grows their produce during the Australian winter, when it is too cold to grow it in Victoria, and their farm in Victoria grows it during the summer when it is too warm in Queensland. Their farms in these locations are relatively young. After an extensive search for adequate water and soil types they moved to Gin Gin in 2010. “Moving the farm from Lower Wonga near Gympie, where we were both land and water locked (lack of both) allowed us a much bigger scope for farming,” explains Tahirih McLeod, wife of Ryan. “The property we purchased near Gin Gin was originally a sugar cane and citrus farm. It took extensive works to convert it into the salad farm it is today.” At this stage they were still farming some properties in South East Queensland, however “the area is well known for its Summer storms, and we were constantly being hammered by storms and hail, which as you can imagine don’t mix well with salad leaves grown in an open paddock.” It was this climatic challenge that prompted the move to Maffra in Victoria for the summer produce, where the climate is more stable.
Below is a photograph of Richard William Barnard, which I was really struck by upon first viewing. It is like a still from Mikhail Kalatozov’s 1964 film ‘I am Cuba’, an incredible and ambitious film that is, in part, about the exploitation of farm workers. Accordingly, Richard’s ethos was to treat his workers and produce with integrity, and which Tahirih emphasises continues to be Dicky Bill’s ethos, and is explained in an article in the Weekly Times regarding the farm’s policy on paying workers. The issue of underpaid farmers workers was also the subject of an inquest in 2015, for which ABC’s Four Corners dedicated an episode.
Please visit the Cartonographer database for more information about the farm, including the new Dicky Bill logo.