After swapping their demanding jobs and cosmopolitan life in inner Melbourne for a bush block in Queensland, Jennifer Nini and Ben McGuire haven’t looked back.
The hills near Woolooga, north-west of Gympie, have been an ideal location to get back to basics and create a picture-perfect spray-free flower farm in country Queensland.
Love bloomed when the Filipino-born Aussie city slicker met the man from Mullumbimby at an IT recruitment company in Melbourne in 2008.
They enjoyed Melbourne’s food, culture, entertainment, and being close to Ms Nini’s family and friends, but life was hectic.
“What I don’t love about the city is it is go, go, go, there’s no time to breathe really … you’re rushing because that’s your norm,” Ms Nini said.
“Then even when you’re off, you’re on, you’re still plugged in, you’re not really disconnected, [you’re] constantly stimulated.
“And I don’t think you realise that’s happening until you’re in the bush,” Mr McGuire added.
“You look at the lifestyle you had and it’s like, ‘Wow, how did we do it, how did we live in an apartment building?'”
The death of Mr McGuire’s brother Mark in 2010 made them question what they really wanted in life.
So, in 2014 they took the plunge and purchased a 48-hectare bush block about two hours’ drive from the Sunshine Coast airport.
After the move, Ms Nini ran a successful multimedia online site focused on fashion and sustainability, while Mr McGuire worked in construction.
The first seeds for their chemical-free flower farm were planted during the COVID-19 lockdown.
“This used to be a greenhouse full of greens, food, and then when COVID hit I’m like, ‘I need to grow something for me, something that’s beautiful’, so I started growing flowers and it just took off,” Ms Nini said.
The weather proved the biggest hurdle for the first-generation farmers.
“I’m like, ‘Wow, we’re in the middle of a drought, you want to grow flowers on this farm?'” Mr McGuire said.
“And then we had the floods, so she brought all the rain from wishing it,” he laughed.
After two years of hard work, building garden beds, expanding the dam, and learning how and what to grow, Flower Farmstead is thriving.
They’re off-grid but connect with customers online, documenting life in the country with photos and video reels on Instagram.
The couple has found their tribe at farmers’ markets, selling sustainably grown blooms that are also popular with florists who are sick of handling imported stems that have been coated in chemicals.
“It gives us a sense of purpose and peace,” Ms Nini said.
“You’re a bit deeper than me,” Mr McGuire joked.
“For me I like waking up, having a nice coffee, the simple things in life, whereas Jen’s more like, ‘Let’s make a change.'”
It’s taken a lot of hard work and capital investment, but the outcome is picture-perfect.
Big little plans
The couple’s long-term goal is to invite others to enjoy a taste of their life in the country, through romantic farm stays in tiny houses.
“It’s probably going to be another 10 years of solid, everyday work, because we’ve got big goals for where we want to take it, it’s going to be a lot of work, but we love the work,” Mr McGuire said.
Their neighbours may be much further away than they were in their Melbourne apartment block, but their connections are closer.
“Everyone’s so supportive, they’re so lovely,” Ms Nini said, praising her community for banding together when they were cut off by flooding last year.
“And just in this little road, there’s no shop or anything like that, but all the neighbours are in a Facebook group, we all chat,” Mr McGuire added.
“We go and catch up with people, have a few beers and some dinner.”
“Oh my goodness, our neighbours and the Gympie region, we couldn’t ask for a better region – we love it,” Ms Nini said.
This story is part of our weekly series Postcards From Queensland showcasing the lives of people who’ve built a new life in the state’s regions.
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