Jonathan was born at a remarkably young age in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, England on 9 April, 1951 and again in 1970 when he arrived in Tasmania. The family consisting then of his father John, mother Margaret, sister Janet and brother Jeffrey had arrived in Australia on 25 April 1965.
After finishing high school at Sunbury, Victoria, he briefly attended Latrobe University in 1969. However, the academic life did not appeal and clerking filled in the time until 1973. After a brief period of door to door selling, he set up a business to sell his paintings and drawings door to door in Hobart, Tasmania. The success of this business upset quite a few people — starving artists and socialists most notably.
“The artists were jealous of my income, but weren’t prepared to sacrifice themselves to Mammon in order to make money. I was happy enough creating pictures that people wanted to buy. The socialists hated the fact that my sales staff were paid commission only. Some were very successful. Some were complete and utter failures. Apparently I was supposed to subsidise the failures by taking money off the successful ones and handing it to the incompetents. I never saw any sense in that.”
Finding new sales staff was the weak point of this business. Those who took to sales went on to bigger and better things. A large sale of bulk pictures to a mainland business resulted in Jonathan’s business collapsing when the bill went unpaid.
It was at this point, 1980, that Jonathan met his future wife, Marguerite. Marguerite was a keen gardener and as this had been a lifelong ambition of Jonathan’s, they scoured the nearby environs of Hobart for a suitable property. After a year, they discovered the ideal place at Franklin, then an hour’s drive from Tasmania’s state capital, Hobart. They had purchased 10 acres of pasture and a very dilapidated 3 bedroom cottage. But it was cheap!
“We moved in at the end of January 1982. There were bushfires raging over the other side of the river, so my first neighbourly act was to walk to the next door neighbour’s place and volunteer my assistance if it was needed to fight fires. The neighbour came by the next day and we fought fires!”
The only local work available to Jonathan was picking apples. However, that plus Marguerite’s income from keeping her job as Girl Friday at a major shopping centre in Hobart provided the capital to improve the cottage and for Jonathan to eventually establish a market garden.
“I phoned the president of the Organic Gardening and Farming Society and said I wanted to establish an organic market garden. Nobody had done that yet in Tasmania, I was told and please get back in touch if you succeed. I phoned the Department of Agriculture and was told that there was no demand for fresh vegetables. I went ahead anyway.”
Jonathan ended up on the board of the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Australia Ltd (NASAA). This company was involved in the establishment of organic production standards and certification of organic production. Jonathan became publicity officer and presented papers to various organisations throughout Australia as well as spending a lot of time with agricultural scientists and farmers.
“I annoyed the hell out of the traditional organic movement and was accused of hob-nobbing with the enemy. I could never see the producers of our food and fibre as enemies. The organic diehards were perceiving themselves as a persecuted minority. My publicity efforts undermined that perception by interesting a wider audience in quality food and more sustainable farming practices. It didn’t help that I am not particularly anti chemical. Given a choice between crop failure and using a chemical, a farmer would be crazy to choose crop failure. On the other hand, using chemicals as a form of insurance is just as silly.”
Jonathan had taken to writing about organic issues for various newspapers and magazines, and ended up writing a book, “Complete Organic Gardening”. He was also writing and illustrating an annual organic gardening calendar. In order to make writing easier, he started using a computer to word process and started a new career.
“At the first Organic Gardening and Farming Society meeting I attended, I met the internationally famous journalist, Allan Moult. We went to the pub for a beer or three at lunchtime and Allan told me of his career as a successful photo-journalist and writer. He asked if I wanted to see his latest book and when I said ‘yes’, he showed me a floppy disk. I had never seen one before and Allan and I started a collaboration that resulted in some interesting adventures in the (then) recently born Desktop Publishing.”
Jonathan’s interest in computers was sparked. He rapidly discovered that much of the labour saving that word processing gave was negated by poor computer skills. For a brief period, 1995-6, he managed a computer training business in Hobart. It was here that he learnt how poorly computer skills were transferred to trainees and returned to self-employment as an on-site computer trainer.
“I find it much more effective to train people in their workplace, preferably one-on-one, or very small groups. We can focus on real needs using real life examples instead of expecting the trainee to transfer theoretical examples to their work. When we create a Word template together, that is a template they can go ahead and use immediately. As well, I insist that trainings go no longer than three hours. I have found that past that time learning slows right down and I don’t need to be there during practice.”
Jonathan’s recent projects have been building The House of Steel, writing a new book on organic gardening, creating a website devoted to promoting the village of Franklin and its people, and attending the local university to study the philosophy of science and history.