This article originally appeared in Emmetts Field of Dreams magazine. Get your copy here.
Hai and Bich Ton are proving successful in the transition from the food service industry to the food growing industry. In 2014, after running a Chinese restaurant for 14 years in Broadview, South Australia, the couple decided to make the switch to farming after seeing the benefits of the farming lifestyle and the effect it would have on their family. Hai and Bich ran their Chinese restaurant with the help of their children, however after seeing the long hours the whole family worked, and the subsequent effect this was having on their childrens’ schoolwork, they decided to transition from serving food to growing food.
Hai and Bich now run a successful 10-acre cucumber farm in Penfield Gardens, SA with their family, which allows them to have a far more balanced lifestyle. The property features 30 plastic houses which are used to grow Lebanese cucumbers all year round. In the warmer months, the farm can yield up to 6 tonnes of produce a week, and in the cooler months up to 4 tonnes. Hai sends his product to the Melbourne markets each week through an agent. In the busier summer months when yields are much higher, Hai employs seasonal workers to assist with harvesting the increase in yield.
Hai and Bich had very little preconceptions about farming and farm machinery before entering the industry and chose John Deere because of its strong brand name and presence in his local community. The farm has a John Deere 1025R which is used with a range of attachments for soil tilling and preparation. Hai enjoys the freedom of being able to do this himself, explaining ‘when you have the machinery yourself, it can be done then and there. It’s a lot easier to do it yourself rather than wait for a contractor which costs time and money. I’m happy that John Deere has easy to use and affordable options for me to do this myself’.
Hai was recommended Emmetts by another horticulturalist in the area based on his positive personal experience with Emmetts. Hai and Bich love their new farming lifestyle as they have both their family home and plastic houses in the one location. ‘It means we can work as much as we want and when we want. We do not feel the pressure that we used to when running the restaurant. We can choose to work early in the mornings or late into the night when we want. Farming is all about effort and reward. We dig deep and put in a lot of effort, but we are greatly rewarded as a result,’ Hai said.
Hai wants to keep his farm running at the current capacity and does not have any plans to expand the operation in the future. ‘I want to keep the farm at this size because it provides us with an amazing work and family life balance. The farm is profitable enough for me to support my two children at university,’ he said.
Hai wants to sell his cucumber operation once his children have finished university and plans to open a charity shop with his wife to give back to the community that has supported their family for so many years. The Emmetts team wishes Hai, Bich and the rest of the family well for the coming years and thanks them for their time being involved in this magazine. Thank you to Brian Silvy from Emmetts Roseworthy, who conducted this interview with Hai at his property in Penfield Gardens.