Top End mango grower Martina Matzner is determined to pass on her passion for agriculture to the next generation.

Story by Nathan Dyer

On a humid June afternoon in the Top End, Martina Matzner is surrounded by mango trees and hoping for a cold snap. “At this time of the year we want the cooler weather because it initiates a good flowering,” says the general manager of Acacia Hills Farm, 60 kilometres south-east of Darwin. “We need it below 18 degrees, preferably, for a week or so, and then usually the trees flower very uniformly.” After that, Martina says she’s happy for the warm weather to return, to help the farm’s 50,000 Calypso mango trees fruit and mature.

Although today she’s widely regarded as one of the pioneers of the Territory’s mango industry, the German-born horticulturalist’s journey to the Top End followed a winding path. Born in Munich, Martina grew up in the small southern German town of Landshut, initially studying theatre science and psychology after leaving high school. It wasn’t until she heard about a course in agricultural engineering that she discovered her real passion. Martina says science indulged her curiosity for the natural world. “I love nature, and I think science explains what you see around you,” she says. “So when agriculture engineering was offered I took great interest, because living amongst a rural area I saw it as a way of understanding how it all worked.”

Martina was surrounded by dairy, grain and forestry farms in Germany, but a trip to Australia before her final year at university gave her career a very different direction to most of her peers. After a brief stay in Melbourne, Martina headed north to take up a traineeship on a property at Humpty Doo and her road to mango farmer unfurled. She says the Top End in 1989 was like nothing she’d ever experienced before. “It was wild and adventurous, and I loved it,” she recalls. After returning to Germany for a year to write her thesis on mangoes, Martina was back in Australia looking for adventure. 

This story excerpt is from Issue #108

Outback Magazine: Aug/Sep 2016