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On the Job with Mark Daniel

Photo by Barry Levine

Photo by Barry Levine

"On the Job with...." is a weekly Sunday Inc. series, spotlighting area business owners and executives. Today's interview is with Mark Daniel, owner of Mark's Melon Patch.

Mark Daniel was just six years old when he got his first job -- pulling weeds in his father Tom's peanut fields for $5 a day.

So it is fair to say that farming and the land are deeply engrained with him.

In 1981 Daniel's uncle, John, helped him obtain a small tract of land ideal for growing vegetables, and the seeds for Mark's Melon Patch, located on Highway 82, were planted.

He left the field long enough to obtain a BS in Agriculture from the University of Georgia. While he loves his work, deep down Daniel says he would really like to be a storm chaser.

Q: If a young person, fresh out of college or looking for a job, what would you tell them?

A: I'd tell them to go with their passion in choosing either a job or a college major. Don't choose a job just because you'll make a lot of money. Don't get stuck in a job you don't like.

Q: What was your first job?

A: When I was six, working on my Dad's weed-pulling crew in the peanut fields. Later I picked up pecans at 5 cents a pound.

Q: What was the first thing you bought after you got your first paycheck?

A: I was six, so I bought candy -- lots of it. Later at 16, I bought a Chevy Vega for $1,600 and spent more than that on maintenance of it later.

Q: Who were your role models or mentors growing up?

A: My dad (Tom) and uncle (John). They ran a tight ship operating Daniel Brothers Farm. I learned a lot just watching them work. When my uncle heard I was looking to buy some land he offered me a long-term lease on a tract that was better suited to growing vegetables. Later he and my dad sold the land to me. Mark's Melon Patch would not exist if it weren't for them.

Oh, and J.R. Grubbs helped me a lot on the business end. He had tons of business sense.

Q: If you could turn back the clock on one aspect of technology, what would it be?

A: Texting, then I could actually have uninterrupted conversations with my teenage daughters.

Q: I am up and going by ...?

A: 5:30 to 6, and in the fields by 6:30

Q: Favorite Hobby or Activity?

A: Spending time with the kids, hunting, fishing and reading.

Q: How has the recession affected your business?

A: It hasn't bothered us as much as most businesses because we deal in food products.

Q: If you could take back one business decision in your career, what would it be?

A: Placing too much trust in a few employees along the way and I was burned because of it.

Q: What's the best thing about your job?

A: Watching God work his magic in the fields every day and being able to work with my kids. Flexible hours and being treated like a rock star by 5-year-olds in the fall.

Q: What's the worst thing about your job?

A: The long hours from May to October and having to fire a worker.

Q: What was the most beneficial course you took in school?

A: Speech

Q: What would be your dream job?

A: Storm chaser!

Q: Finish this: "On the first anniversary of my retirement, I can see myself ..."

A: Traveling more, but I'll always do what I'm doing now to some degree.

Q: What is the one trait a business leader cannot be without?

A: Integrity and passion for their job.

Q: What is your call on a timetable for economic recovery in our area?

A: The sooner the better, but I have no idea.

Q: What do you see as Albany's biggest economic challenge?

A: Getting our unemployment rate down.

Q: What are the biggest changes you've seen at your business over the past 10 years?

A: People come by more often, but buy less. That and people wanting their kids to reconnect with the farm.

Q: What was the best vacation you ever took?

A: Two years ago I took the kids to Hawaii with my mother (Glenda) and my sisters (Jennifer and Renee). I was able to do a lot of scuba diving with my brother-in-law, who is a master diver.