The Desert Fruit Company is an unusual cooperative producing several tonnes of dates annually in Central Australia

Story + Photos Kerry Sharp

Mates with a shared passion for arid zone horticulture have pooled their knowledge, skills and boundless enthusiasm to help feed a voracious Aussie appetite for homegrown fresh dates. 

Directors of The Desert Fruit Company Shaun O’Connor, Kim Mackay and Dennis Bolam are self-described “incidental farmers” in the 14-member cooperative running Australia’s second biggest commercial date venture. They work on a 30-year-old plantation of 798 palms on the edge of the Simpson Desert, 70km south-east of Alice Springs. Other cooperative members mostly live and work in Alice Springs, but contribute ideas and energy whenever they can.

“Primarily, we’re a lifestyle cooperative of like-minded people who just happen to run a date farm,” says Shaun, an Alice Springs-born geologist who “happily swapped the corporate grind for a desert date farm and never looked back”.

This story excerpt is from Issue #145

Outback Magazine: October/November 2022