Interview: Australian Chicken Farmer Encourages Bitcoin Payments

Readers have no doubt by now seen the ABC profile of Mark Burgunder, an Australian independent chicken farmer and Bitcoin enthusiast who was noteworthy because he prefers bitcoins over fiat money.

To quote the ABC feature, which says Burgunder is “laying the foundations for agriculture Bitcoin economy”:

Mr Burgunder is yet to convince any of his customers to start paying for their eggs using the digital currency.

Nonetheless, CCN decided to interview Burgunder about the implications of Bitcoin in agriculture, why he believes in Bitcoin, and what he’s doing locally to increase access to it. Burgunder describes the scale of his business, BUDA Organic Foods,  “as small,” but for those in other industries, it probably sounds like a lot of work.

We are a small organic farm in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland in Queensland, Australia. Currently our main product are eggs but we’ve planted a couple of hundred fruit trees of varying types which should start bearing fruit in the next 2 – 3 years.

He also says that he no longer has a regular job thanks to Bitcoin, which he trades using has a more vitriolic and difficult community than does Paxful, in his opinion. He’s had several bank and PayPal accounts shut down, an experience too many Bitcoiners have had to put up with in recent memory.

I also currently sell bitcoins on to help with cash flow… Bitcoin trading has allowed me to quit my part time job I had previously and I can now spend more time on the farm.

Mark Burgunder

CCN: Does Bitcoin offer any unique advantages for farming compared to other industries?

Burgunder: To be honest I can’t think of anything that would be of particular advantage for farming. Some of the advantages are, that there is no bureaucracy involved in creating a “merchant” account. There’s no need to complete reams of paperwork and then wait for your bank to give you permission to accept payments using their systems. In that respect, barriers for entry are almost non-existent.

If I need to cash-out some bitcoins, that is fairly trivial here in Australia as well. I can just use the service of Living Room Of Satoshi and have bitcoins automatically converted to AUD and deposited into any bank account I nominate.

CCN: What got you into Bitcoin?

Burgunder: I have an IT background, and have heard and read about Bitcoin and mining. At first I dismissed it but then started with some small scale mining. I soon realized that mining is not as profitable as I had at first thought. I then started buying bitcoins on exchanges, initially just as an investment. Over time I have come to realize a number of ways in which bitcoins are more secure and just generally better than our current monetary systems.

Realizing what actually happens when you make a credit card payment was a huge eye-opener and I have since minimized my use of credit cards where ever possible and started giving businesses that accept Bitcoin my preference.

CCN: Any rational person had to be skeptical of Bitcoin at first. Australia is particularly known for draconian rules regarding technology, and it wasn’t long ago that MasterCard Australia was pressuring the government to do something about Bitcoin. Have you run up against any government interference?

Burgunder: Haven’t run into any government interference so far. However, I have had a bank account closed without a proper reason given by the bank. This bank account was one I used for my Bitcoin trading.

Apparently quite a few traders have had their bank accounts closed without any real reason given. PayPal have also closed two accounts on me, again because of my Bitcoin trading, without actually saying so. PayPal are currently still holding on to roughly $3000 in an account they are closing.

I have been using a VPN for a while now though, exactly because of the data retention laws introduced by our government. Sad thing is that this new law is not actually going to catch any crooks or keep us any safer. It is so easy to circumvent that any crook or terrorist surely will do so. Heck, our new Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, even explained during an interview on TV how to get around the new data retention law. It’s a really stupid law with the only thing going for it, that it makes it look like the government is doing something. Anyone looking at it in detail though can clearly see that the costs will greatly outweigh any benefit that may, perhaps eventuate

CCN: How do you feel about a closed-loop economy, where you are paid in Bitcoin, buy goods and services in Bitcoin, and retain your net worth in Bitcoin as well? Some believe that when such economies are created, even at small scale, Bitcoin adoption will take off like wildfire. What’s your thoughts on that?

Burgunder: I’d love to be paid in Bitcoin for all our stuff and would gladly keep any earnings in Bitcoin to use to pay suppliers. I fully agree that if we can build closed loops, even on a small scale, Bitcoin will take off like there is no tomorrow..

CCN: Paxful is a US-based exchange. There are a number of exchanges more local to you. Is there a particular reason you’ve inadvertently recommended them here? I didn’t know before that they did gift cards in exchange for BTC. That’s neat. They are also the ones who came to the rescue of, aren’t they?

Burgunder: I use Paxful because I get plenty of business out of it. Have started on LocalBitcoins before that, but I have found that the buyers on Paxful are easier to deal with most of the time. Most of my trades are with people who use bitcoins to pay for Backpage ads. I am happy to explain things to new comers and first-time buyers. I’ve always liked helping people.

CCN: So, do you know anyone else locally who accepts Bitcoin from you, or is considering it? How often do you spend your bitcoins directly? What do you make of services that immediately dump coins onto exchanges and call it “accepting Bitcoin”?

Burgunder: My wife is an Acupuncturist and Chinese Herbalist and, of course, she accepts bitcoins as well. Other than that I don’t know of anyone already accepting it. However, I have had a private conversation with the owner of one of the smaller supermarkets in the area and he is quite aware of Bitcoin and would be interested in accepting it. What’s holding him back currently is that his tills are not supporting Bitcoin at this time, and he’s only just spent millions renovating his store. So he’s got to earn a bit more before looking into other major changes.

I’ve also had a conversation with one of the local not for profit organizations who were quite interested in Bitcoin. Unfortunately for them as well, they’ve got so many things happening all the time, that they were mentally not ready to accept Bitcoin donations yet.

I haven’t actually been able to spend bitcoins directly in person. Have spent bitcoins directly for a number of services online though and will continue to do so. I actually prefer merchants that accept bitcoins over merchants that don’t.

In a perfect world, I’d say that accepting bitcoins to cash out straight away is questionable. However, in our current world I think these merchants are still better than ones that do not accept bitcoins at all. In my view, it is now most important that bitcoins keep moving, being spent and earned. I believe bitcoins that are circulating are better for the bitcoin ecosystem than pure investment into Bitcoin. Nothing wrong with investing in bitcoin but that will not drive further growth in acceptance of Bitcoin, only using bitcoins wherever possible will do so.

Editor’s Note: We thank Mark for his thoughts and time.

Featured image from Shutterstock and image of Mark Burgunder from Mark Burgunder.