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8 March, 2021

Making the best of Lakeland life

Living on a farm in Lakeland is not the same as it was in the 1990s for Stef O’Kane.


There’s now internet access, phone reception, sealed roads, a footy ground and a massive solar farm.

“We’re not even close to being remote any more,” Stef said last week.

“It’s a two-hour drive to Mareeba and in three hours you can be at an international airport.”

Growing up in Lakeland, the road both north and south was a minefield and a landline phone was the best connection to the outside world.

With all that change, Lakeland has become a great place for people like Stef and husband Garry to raise a family.

They live on the family farm, yet own and operate their individual businesses.

Garry, a fitter and turner from Tully, runs Twenty-Five Designs, serving all of the farms in the Lakeland region.

Stef, a woman of many talents, last year set up a fruit shed on the side of the road.

She sells fruit and veges that are exclusively grown in Lakeland.

In classic Cape York nature, Steffie’s relies on an honesty box system.

“We don’t worry about theft. If you were worried about it you wouldn’t do it in the first place,” she said.

Steffie’s is well supported and is sure to get plenty of traffic in the tourist season as it is positioned in a prime spot on the Peninsula Developmental Road.

“The problem I have is that our bananas and mangoes are usually grown outside of that tourist season,” Stef said.

“So when we are getting all of that traffic, I have the least amount of stock.”

A fierce advocate for Lakeland life, Stef is the proud secretary of the Lakeland Progress Association, an organisation that looks to host a handful of events to improve the social life in the town.

“We need to make sure we are bringing people together because otherwise they work all day every day,” she said.

“Not everyone wants to go to the pub so we need to create a few more events to get people out and interacting.”

Allowing for more growth in Lakeland is another priority.

On the land, more water is needed to make the most of the beautiful red soil in the region, but in the town there’s no room to expand.

“We don’t want to become too big but we can’t be turning away families that want to live here,” Stef said.

“But we are working on it.”


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