John Ho survived the Vietnam War and now spends his entire holidays picking mangoes – ABC Rural





It’s mid-afternoon, the Top End sun is beating down, humidity presses in from all sides, and John Ho is walking around in a straw hat, picking mangoes with a long pole.

John Ho key points

Key points:

  • ABC IT worker John Ho doesn’t rest when he takes annual leave — he tends to his mango farm
  • The Vietnam War survivor started Happy Ho’s Mangoes in 1997 after helping a friend with a harvest
  • He says he wants his farm to be a peaceful place for all, right down to the birds

Plastered across his face is a big smile.

“When you love something, you don’t care what condition the weather is,” Mr Ho said.

“I can stand out there with a bottle of water and pick from dawn until dusk, I have no complaints at all.

Mr Ho’s love of picking mangoes started when a friend asked him to come and give him a hand on his farm one harvest season.

“I thought to myself, ‘why don’t I start my own farm so I can pick as much as I like?'” he said.

So, in 1997 Mr Ho bought a small block at Darwin River, cleared the land and planted around 1,000 mango trees.

When he first started Mr Ho knew nothing about growing mangoes, but he made it his mission to learn how to be a good mango farmer.

‘Picking mangoes is my holiday’

Mr Ho is not a full-time farmer — his main job is in the technology services department at ABC Darwin — so he has used all his free time to slowly build up his mango block over the past 20 years.

“I’ve got about two days per week free, so instead of spending those two days relaxing, I spend them by [farming] mangoes,” Mr Ho said.

As for making time for the intense harvest period, Mr Ho takes all his annual leave to get the job done.

“Instead of going away for a holiday, I spend most of [my annual leave] picking mangoes … picking mangoes is my holiday,” he said.

“This year I took around five weeks off just for the mango season, I am very happy with that.”

While he enjoys the process of picking mangoes, Mr Ho said he also grows mangoes to help other people.

“I like to make everybody happy so that the [mango pickers] have something to do, the people at the packing shed have something to do, the agents have some work, and the customers will be happy if the mangoes are good quality.”

Every mango season, Mr Ho drops off dozens of boxes of mangoes to ABC Darwin, allowing his colleagues to take home as many as they like.

From Vietnam to Darwin River

Mr Ho is originally from Vietnam, arriving in Australia as a refugee in 1981 after spending six months in a Malaysian refugee camp.

He knew hardly any English when her arrived, but worked hard in classes at Darwin Community College, and upon graduation he landed a job with the ABC, where he has worked for more than 35 years.

Now, with his own farm, which trades under the name Happy Ho Mangoes, and plenty of mangoes to pick each year, Mr Ho feels very pleased with how far he has come.

“When I’m on my farm I feel relaxed,” Mr Ho said.

“I want to make this area a peaceful place for everyone, even the birds.

“So, no one is allowed to shoot on my land, I don’t want any blood here.

“I want everything in this place to be peaceful.



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