By Jonathan Porter
For the past 15-years oyster farmer Jedd Routledge, managing partner of Natural Oysters, has lived a life many would envy.
The 38-year-old’s pristine Coffin Bay lease on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula is home to some of the finest oysters on Earth and he exports to as far away as China as well as supplying some of the nation’s leading restaurants.
The only child was called home by his parents after finishing university to take charge of his beleaguered family farm.
You may recognise Routledge from his appearances on the reality TV show Farmer Wants a Wife.
Joys to be had on the Eyre Peninsula
Asked about his chances of meeting a lady on the Eyre Peninsula, he says: “There can be joys on the Eyre Peninsula and the difficult part of it is when you get to a certain age it can be tricky.”
“Especially once all your mates are married and you’re not in the big city where you’re meeting a lot of people.”
Routledge is not allowed to say any more about the show but he clearly has a sense of humour and I wish him all the best.
I ask him if, considering oysters are bisexual hermaphrodites, he takes any special precautions when he ventures out among them.
I am rewarded with a gutsy laugh over the telephone, “No, not especially,’’ he says. “But you’re right, they do change sex at certain ages.”
He says oyster farming is also a challenge.
“You have to be committed. A bit of physical strength doesn’t hurt.”
There are constant fluctuations in the environment including storms, dead low tides and floods.
But the rewards are there every day.
“The Eyre Peninsula speaks for itself,” he says.
“My words will never do it justice. It’s a beautiful part of South Australia. You only need to look at any of the pictures to get an idea of what it’s like here.
The rewards also come from growing an awesome product.
“Oysters have a special place in history and a lot of people are conscious they go back to Roman times, to archaeological digs in Britain to being eaten by humans for a long time before.
“It’s great to take pride in being able to produce something which is world class.
“When people come in and you demystify the job and show them that there is a lot of work that goes into getting that dozen on to a plate they leave with a greater appreciation.”
Does he have any regrets about coming home to work the family farm?
“Regret is not a word I would like to use at any stage. There are ups and downs and challenges like any other small business … but there’s no place I’d rather be.”
Qantas flies from Sydney to Port Lincoln via Adelaide. Regional Express also has flights to Port Lincoln from Adelaide.
The drive from Adelaide takes roughly three hours to Port Augusta (a de facto gateway to the Peninsula); it’s a further three hours to Port Lincoln.