How to be a farmer when you're allergic to your crop
PEOPLE are often surprised when they hear exactly what it is that farmer Rob Hutchings breeds on his property.
For almost four decades Mr Hutchings has produced fresh water crayfish on his farm, which lies more than 120kms west of the nearest coastline.
His inland farm, which operates as Freshwater Australian Crayfish Traders, is one of the most successful in the state and consists of a whopping 80 dams.
Each of these dams can hold up to 1000kg of redclaw crayfish, a breed native to Australia.
"There are 120 varieties of crayfish," Mr Hutchings said.
"We've tried a few breeds but the redclaw is the most sustainable and the fastest growing.
"Most people are surprised to find out where we are but we can produce up to 800kg a week out of the dams at maximum capacity.
"We also do a lot of fish and prawns as well."
The story of how Mr Hutchings got started in crayfish farming is also an interesting one.
He started as a research technician at the University of Queensland in Brisbane and decided he wanted to get out of the lab and into the outdoors.
"We started in 1977. I was very young and had a beard," he joked.
"I was always going to be a biologist. When I started as a technician I realised I'd rather be on the land.
"I love what I do."
Although Mr Hutchings is passionate about crayfish, he can't actually eat them.
"Every time you pick up a crayfish you get a little spike, a little injection, and your body becomes sensitive to them," he said.
"If I eat them I get sick so I haven't eaten a crayfish for 15 years."
The passionate farmer said there was once about 100 crayfish farms in Queensland but the industry was rapidly declining.
"We've gone from being one of the first to one of the last," he said.
"We've got delivery vans which deliver from Tweed Heads to Toowoomba. We have a lot of people buying small quantities, restaurants and seafood distributors.
"Nearly all of our sales are south-east Queensland, Sydney and Melbourne."
Mr Hutchings is involved in the Scenic Rim Eat Local Week which begins this Saturday.
He said those who want to taste his product could visit Aratula for the Winter Harvest Festival on July 2.