BIG SWITCH: Richard MacDonald has given up growing tomatoes to study nursing.
BIG SWITCH: Richard MacDonald has given up growing tomatoes to study nursing. Geoff Potter

Farmer nurses desire to help sick

RICHARD MacDonald describes farming as the hardest thing he has ever done in his life, but making a leap to a new career is not far behind.

At 50, the former tomato farmer is studying to achieve his childhood dream of becoming a nurse.

He has nearly completed his first year of a nursing degree at the University of the Sunshine Coast and is about to embark on his first stint of practical work.

Mr MacDonald always wanted to be a nurse but was deterred by his father, who did not see it as a career for a man.

Life took him in many directions.

He ran a hotel in Edinburgh before stepping into tomato growing with Noosa Reds at Doonan.

"I came back [from Europe] in 2006 and contemplated going back to university, but was too scared so I bought another business, the tomatoes," he said.

While running the Edinburgh hotel, guests involved with the medical charity Mercy Ships rekindled his interest in nursing and a friendship with a local surgeon kept the fire burning.

Mr MacDonald confessed that fear of failure and "a little bit of ego" had held him back.

"Had I gone off and started uni, and made that commitment, and not done so well, I would have had to eat humble pie," he said.

The father of three finally decided last year that it was "now or never" and completed the Tertiary Preparation Pathways course which qualified him for entry to university and built his confidence.

"I did two subjects the first semester and two in the

second semester and that was the catalyst to helping me decide if this is what I wanted to do," he said.

Mr MacDonald hopes to be able to do volunteer work in third world countries or work in rural and remote nursing in Australia.