John Atkin spent much of his working life as the head of a fitness centre group in Brisbane, managing more than 50 staff and working 70 hours a week.
In 2000 he decided he needed a change of pace, “so I thought I might as well give farming a crack,” he said.
Fourteen years later, as the head of Duranbah farm and fresh produce business Jumping Red Ant, John still works 70-hour weeks, but says the job satisfaction simply can’t compare:
“You plant that seedling, you feed that seedling, you produce fruit and to produce a product that’s edible and a good product is so rewarding.”
John now has three farms around Duranbah, near Kingscliff, where he grows a big variety of fresh produce including avocados, potatoes, sweet potatoes, eggplants, chillies, tomatoes, capsicum, zucchini, peas, beans and passionfruit.
He classifies himself as a SOFT farmer (using standard organic farming techniques), is insecticide and pesticide free, and uses all natural fertilisers.
He started small, selling avocados at the Kingscliff market, but has gradually expanded so that he now employs six local staff and supplies farmers markets across the whole Tweed/Byron region.
John says one of the best things about the farmers markets is the connection you are able to make with your customers.
“You get some real satisfaction from the feedback you get from people, and when you’re in a farmers market with a good atmosphere and a good vibe, it’s just a pleasure to be there.”
Along with the fruit and veg, regulars to the farmers markets would know John for his home-grown roses and other flowers. John says it is this side of the business that he loves most:
“It brings so much joy to people. Just a cheap little bunch of $7 flowers can last four or five days and people get so much enjoyment out of them.”