Two remote area nurses have built up a successful farming operation with Angus cattle, flowers and a heck of a lot of garlic.
Story + Photos Ricky French
On Milingimbi Island, 440km east of Darwin, remote nurse Jason Strong is tending to an elderly man with suspected pneumonia. He performs a full medical assessment, takes chest X-rays, puts in 2 intravenous lines and comforts the frightened patient, making him a cup of tea and a sandwich while on the phone with the RFDS to coordinate an emergency evacuation.
Like the best remote nurses, Jason is calm, compassionate and clear-headed. He’s been doing the job for 20 years and loves it dearly.
Jason’s other love is his wife, Melanie Shields. She is also a nurse and works 4 days a week at Wonthaggi Hospital, Vic. After more than 20 years of caring for people in remote places, they now also care for 18ha of land they bought in 2020 near Welshpool, in South Gippsland. It has a small herd of Angus and around 50,000 Tasmanian purple garlic plants. In just 3 years – in the middle of a global pandemic and without any farming experience – they’ve built a buoyant, multifaceted business called Indigo Farm Welshpool. “Some people think it’s strange, juggling remote nursing, farming and Melanie delivering babies at the local hospital,” Jason says. “We just think it’s normal.”
This story excerpt is from Issue #153
Outback Magazine: Feb/Mar 2024