Business

Johno's living the good life down on The Farm

The Farm general manager Johno Hunter is passionate about good food and truly believes they are re-writing the book on what can be done with food.
The Farm general manager Johno Hunter is passionate about good food and truly believes they are re-writing the book on what can be done with food. Marc Stapelberg

IT'S 7am and Johnson 'Johno' Hunter, on his first round of the day, walks across the dewy grass to check the cattle enclosure at The Farm .

Satisfied with the condition of the herd which comprises a mix of Scottish highlanders, Murray greys, black angus and herefords, he gives rescue-calf Braveheart a good scratch behind the ears.

Then, bending down to take a photo which he'll add to The Farm's popular Instagram site, he waves a hand as though to embrace the surrounding paddocks.

"Where else would you rather be?," he said with a grin.

Where else indeed.

As the general manager of The Farm, Mr Hunter oversees an inspiring 32.3Ha agricultural operation at Ewingsdale.

His hands-on role involves visiting all the areas inside and out and speaking to the key players involved in the business which has become a tour-de-force in the region.

Familiar to anyone who has driven past their lush paddocks on their way to or from Byron Bay, this go-to venue for great food, meals, flowers and produce, is principally a working farm which employs up to 120 people at peak times.

"Our motto is grow, feed and educate," he said.

"At The Farm we house a collection of micro-businesses all sharing in a common goal in a supportive environment to contribute to a healthier lifestyle."

After his first walk, sometime between 8am and 9.30am, Mr Hunter and his team come together inside the 100-year-old homestead, now the operational hub for a meeting he calls "the huddle".

"The daily huddle is where we discuss what's going with the whole set-up which comprises the Three Blue Ducks Restaurant and Produce Store, The Bread Social and Flowers at the Farm," he said.

"I love working here, discussing all the ideas which come to fruition."

After working through a range of issues, Mr Hunter then conducts his first tour of the day.

The mix of families, tourists, curious locals and keen gardeners, are enchanted as he leads them across the property, explaining their philosophy of sustainable growth.

 

"We have 80 acres (32.3Ha) which is home to a community of growers, producers, eateries, and educators, who share a passion for growing food using traditional, sustainable methods," he said.

"I'm really inspired by the owners, Tom and Emma Lane, their philosophy and ethics and the contributions of all the people who work here is amazing."

As children run along the paths while their parents exclaim at the wide variety of fruit, vegetables and herbs grown, Mr Hunter said one of The Farm's missions is for everyone who visits to get first-hand experience of sustainable farming.

"We want everyone to enjoy this experience and leave feeling inspired to make even the smallest change towards a healthier, more harmonious existence with their lives," he said.

"Our heritage-breed pigs, heritage cattle and chickens which are all free-range and are used for meat and eggs in the on-site restaurant, cafe and produce store."

As the group walks towards the free-range chook paddock, Mr Hunter said the flock of 450 hens which have a special relocatable caravan, produce around 100 dozen eggs a week.

Passing a long bed containing a gaudy chorus line of hundreds of golden sunflowers, he said the display which runs parallel to Ewingsdale Rd attracts a great deal of attention from drivers.

After the tour, Mr Hunter stops for a quick working lunch at Three Blue Ducks which is crowded with people of all ages.

Various staff stop by his table for a quick chat and in between catching up on farm news and eating, he checks emails, returns calls and plans his afternoon.

Then he's off to deliver another tour, speak with staff about visitor progress, check with the cafe, produce store and florist, answer calls from suppliers and overseeing the mound of paperwork every business generates.

Mid-afternoon, there's another spate of on-the-spot discussions about future planting and harvesting.

Then it's time for another coffee and a final walk around around the property.

As the day draws to a close, he pushes his hat back and smiles.

"I never really switch off," he said.

"It's quite a long day here, but I love it."

Topics:  braveheart norther rivers environment organics the farm byron bay the farm cow braveheart


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