MOVING to the island was a far cry from living in the city for 22-year-old John Nand, a full time farmer in Yadua Village, Gau Island in the Lomaiviti Group.
This soft-spoken lad caught my attention while on tour to the island of Gau during a recent official visit.
After an exchange of greetings, John began his story of how he moved to Gau two years ago to start a life of his own.
Like all school leavers, John had a dream of becoming an engineer but admits that peer pressure got the best of him and he resorted to all sorts of activities he now regrets.
"I was just mixing around with the wrong crowd and was getting into all sorts of trouble," he said with a grin. "But I guess that mistakes of the past always moulds us to become better people."
John recalls the day he set sail for Gau in a fibreglass boat with his friend to attend a funeral.
"After the funeral, the boat owner had problems repairing the boat engine so we were stuck on the island for a few weeks. Finally the trip to Suva was arranged but I changed my mind as I had fallen in love with island life," a smiling John said.
"I love every single day that I spend here on the island and these are memories that I will never forget."
To occupy his time, John decided to start his own farm and with the assistance of his newfound family members, he started his yaqona and dalo farms.
He admits that seeing other young lads harvesting their yaqona and carrying them into the village were the spark for his idea.
"That was all the encouragement that I needed and seeing the pride on their faces after years of toil, I knew that I wanted to become a farmer," he smiled proudly.
With passion, he flicked open his cellphone and showed me pictures of his thriving yaqona and dalo plantations.
"It's just been two years but I know that I can plant much more," he smiled.
He has 800 yaqona plants which were planted in phases as well as 400 dalo plants already in the ground.
The former Gospel High School student says there are so many opportunities when it comes to farming.
"You just need to have the right motives and work towards achieving your goals," he said.
According to the agriculture locality officer based in Lovu Village, Mosese Nailagovesi, John has so much potential and can reach his goals.
"It's amazing to see someone from the city who is determined to create history on the agricultural platform here on the island of Gau," said Nailagovesi.
"Through visits and technical advice, he has managed to improve a lot on his farming skills."
Nailagovesi said farming was carried out on the hills and mountains of Gau, the largest in the Lomaiviti Group, .
"That was the practice carried out by the elders that first settled on the island and whatever they planted always thrived and in some areas of the island, plants survived the harshest conditions."
When asked whether he would return to Suva, John said he would move back to Suva once he had met his goals.
"My parents have been asking me to move back to Suva but I told them that I will return once I reach my goal," he smiled.
And there is no doubt that John will achieve his goal of building his own house in Suva after harvesting his yaqona in a few years' time.
"It's a long wait but that is the risk that I am willing to take and I don't have to worry about anything here on the island as Yadua Village is my home away from home."
John says that he will continue to build his farm into a farming haven and is just grateful he has been accepted as part of the bigger Yadua Village family.
"I don't have to worry about anything and I don't need money to survive here on the island.
"A person that is hardworking and honest will never go hungry and that is something that I notice about living here in the island," he explained.
This exceptional young man hopes his story will be an inspiration to other school leavers that are still searching for better education and jobs.
"Furthering your studies is not bad and I don't want to discourage that but if you own a piece of land back in the village, it does not hurt to utilise it for farming purposes because it's a mine of wealth that is just waiting to be unearthed," advised John .
Like every young man, settling down to start a family is part of his dream.
Just out of curiosity, I asked him whether he wanted to marry one of my tauvu from Gau to which he quickly replied "dau, sega!" in the most perfect Gau accent.
John hopes to get everything together before he can start his own family.
"It is all about time management and making sacrifices that I have achieved my own farm and I am going to improve on it, just wait and see," he said proudly.
* Kuini Waqasavou is an information officer with the Ministry of primary Industries.