“From paddock to plate” - a new concept for Cairns, and a lifeline for local producers

The much publicised price wars between the major supermarkets continues to rage, and primary producers lament that it will be the death knell of Australian farming as we know it. The retail duopoly exerts its extraordinary might over farmers, squeezes smaller convenience stores out of the market, and prepares for a likely assault form overseas supermarket giants Aldi and Lidl on the multi-billion dollar grocery industry. Meanwhile, a local Atherton Tablelands farming couple have pinned their hopes (and three million bucks!) on a groundswell of opposition to these corporate bohemiths, and a return to a sense of community.

Warren and Gail Jonsson, from Ravenshoe, opened Jonsson’s Farmers’ Markets on Tuesday, at Stratford just outside Cairns CBD. Maria and I dropped in yesterday to see what all the fuss was about, and we were confronted by a swarming crowd of locals, stripping the shelves of fresh produce as fast as the team of scurrying workers could replenish it.


With the slogan “Paddock to plate”, the Jonssons aim to cut out the middle-men who normally take their cut of the proceeds of primary produce before it reaches the consumer. As much as possible, they aim to source their produce direct from the grower and offer it fresh to the consumer. The sign on a 400kg bin of sweetcorn cobs proudly proclaimed “picked yesterday on the Tablelands”. With this principle in mind, they sell fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and fish, cut flowers and a range of delicacies… as well as prepared salads, fruit salads and fresh squeezed juices.

During the week, I bumped into Cliffy, who sells his delicious homemade icecream in a van on the street in Kuranda, and he was thrilled to have an additional outlet for his product.

In light of the high unemployment rate here in the tropical north, I reckon that the twenty-four full time employees that the Jonssons hired are appreciative as well,. And that’s not to mention the farmers!

I take my hat off to anyone with the cojones to tackle the stronghold that the supermarket giants have established over growers in this country throughout the past twenty years or so, and we hope the Jonsson’s receive the support they deserve. Think about it… if you’re not going to suport someone like this, you don’t deserve to bitch about the supermarkets!  

9 Responses to ““From paddock to plate” - a new concept for Cairns, and a lifeline for local producers”

  1. Jim McMahon Says:

    Sadly, someone incredibly stupid has decided this new grocery shop should only have 10 car parks. What kind of jackasrses at council are approving such nonsense?

    Lack of car parks killed the Pier market, too. Doesn’t anyone learn?

  2. Steve Says:

    Jim, I couldn’t agree with you more. Ten carparks is ludicrous; fortunately there is that long grassy area (soon to be a long muddy area!) which was bumper-to-bumper with cars when we visited. In fact that access road was abottleneck, as drivers waited for spaces to open up.

    Even a quick estimate would tell you that for an investment that size to show results, they will likely need to serve at least one customer (average spend $20?) each minute throughout the day. That would add up to a weekly turnover of around $100,000.

    If each shopper spends fifteen minutes from the time they park to the time they drive out, that means an AVERAGE of fifteen vehicles in the carpark at any given moment. There will undoubtedly be a significant fluctuation of business during the day, so it would be safe to assume that there will be AT LEAST thirty vehicles needing parking space during the busy period (presumably after school / after work)

    In my opinion, these are conservative estimates and reflect an ACCEPTABLE turnover for Mr and Mrs Jonsson. If the business takes off as I think it will, my rough estimates may be blown out of the water!


  3. Jim McMahon Says:

    Nice calcs, steve.

    You forgot about the employees - I heard 28.

    In that location, they’re all likely driving.

  4. Steve Says:

    Ah yes, I had overlooked staff parking. Also visiting sales reps and suppliers… hmm…

  5. Dorothy Says:

    Hi there,
    Went to the Farm Market the day it opened and loved it. Prices are not really cheap but I found the quality of the products was fantastic. I could actually SMELL the carrots and the pears as I was walking the alley ! It’s also nice to see they’re offering a whole range of local products i.e. coffee, nuts, ice-cream… Hopefully it will give the local economy a bit of a boost.

  6. Bek Says:

    I have been to the market a couple of times now & NEVER had a problem with parking, getting a park under cover everytime. The prices are compareable, but the quality is SO much better on SO many levels. I am finding excuses to go there more often, whether it be for fruit & veg, meat, or flowers (which are better than some florists I have been too). I would highly recommend this place for everyone to try. The products are amazing, the service has been absolutely great on every occasion. I cannot wait to find another excuse to shop there again

  7. Nina A Says:

    Actually I think that there are 21 spaces inside, heaps of parking in the front, and of course the staff park around the corner, so as not to affect the flow of business. The meat is always fresh, great looking and much cheaper than at the other store, and the fruit and veg are supurb and fresh. And yes, Bek, the flowers are absolutely lovely (so is the Florist). There are also so many new products appearing every time that I look, and it’s wonderful to see that the local growers are much supported. It’s a great venture that Cairns has been waiting to see for a long time. I’m telling everyone I know about it, and I live on the South side, too!

  8. Jim McMahon Says:

    Seen reports that staff Is being sacked as the store performing poorly. Includes the highly touted manager, who was warning the Jonsson family that the location isn’t working for people. And while I have occasion to stop in on my trips to town, their lack of stock and high prices don’t bode well for an already stretched consumer. It will be interesting to see how long they will burn cash running the place before they say “uncle”.

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