Many Australians dream of retiring to a quiet farm, but going bush was just the beginning for this fledgling software engineer.
Jan Martin, 25, unplugged from the gridlock of Canberra nearly two years ago and bought a rural property an hour north of the capital.
It was a logical move for the information technology worker despite seeming odd to some of his city-dwelling peers.
“When I go into the office I use the same technologies as I do when I’m out here so it was a natural fit,” he said.
Only a few neighbours means minimal traffic on the NBN fixed wireless tower. (ABC Canberra: Michael Black)
Tree change grew from a few factors
Mr Martin has worked in IT since graduating from university and said reliable internet was essential for remote work.
His experience with a fixed wireless service has been vastly different from other regional customers of the National Broadband Network (NBN).
“We can get up to 50 megabits per second, which is a lot faster than we ever had in Canberra,” he said.
The price was right with monthly mortgage repayments of $1,300 nearly $500 cheaper than rent in the city.
He also pointed out some of the big-picture benefits to the environment by avoiding a daily commute and cultivating the land.
“We’ve planted about 2,000 trees since we’ve been here and we’re very conscious about a variety of environmental concerns.”
When tending the farm the hours are long and the work is rough. (ABC Canberra: Michael Black)
Going out for some fresh air
The property’s original farmhouse was built in the 1870s, with many of its bygone features a stark contrast to Mr Martin’s office in the city.
His boss Joe Mammoliti, the director of iCognition in Canberra, put his full support behind the plan.
“It’s always exciting to ask him what he’s doing on the weekend and he’s always got some crazy project in mind,” he said.
Mr Mammoliti said other companies should embrace diversity if they wanted to stand out and draw in young people.
“The most important thing is to keep the creative process and the chemistry of thought,” he said.
“I don’t pay people to just sit in a chair for 7.6 hours.”
Escaping the city is the ultimate freedom
Ploughing fields, planting crops and raising livestock has served as the ultimate way to refresh the brain, Mr Martin said.
“I feel like I start work every day anew.”
Farm work has required some technical literacy, with the digital nomad using online videos to learn the tools of the trade.
Old hands have generously shared their knowledge around the woollier arts of sheep shearing and rearing animals.
Sheer determination has seen Jan Martin pick up a variety of new skills. (ABC Canberra: Michael Black)
Not everyone in the area has been open to change; the median age of Yass has been climbing slowly.
“You end up with a shortage of skilled young workers and I think that’s what a lot of small towns are experiencing now,” Mr Martin said.
However, a proactive local council made it easier for Mr Martin and his partner by allowing their modest block to be sliced out of a larger acreage.
Their peers have expressed an interest in moving out to the country but are hesitant to jump the fence.
“This lifestyle isn’t for everybody, but it only has to be as difficult as you make it,” Mr Martin said.
“If you can find the right place, I’d say go for it.”