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Panta Simeonovic

Panta Simeonovic

Panta Simeonovic and his wife Emilija migrated from rural Yugoslavia to Australia in 1968, and settled in Queanbeyan, east of Canberra. In their garden near the Queanbeyan River, they applied the deep knowledge of vegetable and fruit gardening that theyd acquired in Yugoslavia as children and young adults. Today their backyard is extraordinarily productive, producing a wide range of crops.

Read more about their gardening experiences. (The excerpts below are from an interview recorded with Panta and Emilija in February 2012.)

Listen to Panta's gardening experiences


A colour photo of Panta inspecting chillies growing in his garden.
Photo: Jason McCarthy.
A colour photo of Panta leaning over a white picket fence.
Photo: Jason McCarthy.

All my life I’m growing a garden because before we came here we lived on the farm. We grew a lot of corn, wheat, beans, potato, tomato, capsicum – all the garden vegetables.

It was 1968. I came to Sydney, and from Sydney to Canberra. From Canberra airport my friends, who came three months before me, they gave me a lift to here in Queanbeyan. And after one year we bought this block and this garage. We lived in that garage and after built this house.

Panta and his wife inspecting tomatoes growing in his garden.
Photo: Jason McCarthy.

I try to not use much spray but when I see some insects come, I go and pick it up and kill them – no spray. Because with spray you kill that insect, you kill yourself too with that one because that is poison for yourself. All the time we remember from our grandparents, they say, “Food which you produce is better than you buy from the market”, because they are growing too much for market and they have to put fertiliser and too much spray. They spray because they can’t collect the insects like I collect them. They have to spray to kill them.

A colour photo of Panta standing in his vegetable garden.
Photo: Jason McCarthy.
I look every morning when I wake up. I go through to garden and see how it is going, maybe I have something greening up.
A colour photo of Panta kneeling in his vegetable garden.
Photo: Jason McCarthy.
Here in Queanbeyan it’s similar because in this part of Australia you have four seasons, like that part where we come from in Yugoslavia they have four seasons. But sometimes different sun comes and different angled sun comes here in Australia than in Europe.
A colour photo of Panta inspecting chillies growing in his garden.
Photo: Jason McCarthy.

They come, all the grandchildren come and they see the old gardening how it’s done. Already they know how that is growing – how potato, how tomato, how capsicum, how beans are growing – everything they know.

A colour photo of a variety of potatoes from Panta's garden.
Photo: Jason McCarthy.
We are growing for life, because we were growing on the farm and then here just in the back yard. But we are still growing vegetables. Better than growing grass, because grass, we can’t eat it – it needed watering, cutting and it looked nice, but not profit.
A colour photo of Panta and his wife holding their show ribbons and awards.
Photo: Jason McCarthy.
We’re more happy if we get the prize – the money we’re not interested in that. But the prize, oh I’m happy, I will make it bigger if I can. Good prize, you know, it’s enjoying. We don’t enjoy the club or the poker machines. If you have a little bit bigger prize, then I am happy.
A colour photo of Panta inspecting vegetables at a show.
Photo: Jason McCarthy.
Queanbeyan is not a big show. It’s not as important, the Queanbeyan Show, just the Canberra Show. We see that one as nice, more people come. There’s many doctors which when we go and visit them they see our name and say, “Oh how beautiful was your exhibition”.