Earlier in the year, I offered to write a guest post for the Aussie Blogger’s site which was published in April. It’s reproduced here for your reading pleasure.
Seven months ago now we pulled up stumps in Sydney, and relocated to hinterland of the Mid North Coast of New South Wales, on the eastern seaboard of Australia, to follow a very long held dream of owning a farm and producing organic foods.
So why would two otherwise intelligent forty-something’s go into partnership with another couple, choose to live with them under the same roof, have the husbands walk away from seemingly good employment with nothing firm to go to, with none of them having any previous farming experience save for a trained urban horticulturalist? This must be some mighty strong dream we’re following.
Australians know that there is something in our psyche that draws us
to the beauty that is the wide open spaces and natural splendour of
this ancient continent. For me that was instilled at an early age,
growing up near and spending early years playing in suburban bushland,
that later led to bush-walking and cross-country skiing through our
wonderful National Parks.
Family visits to farming friends also played a part in the genesis
of The Dream! Declaring that I wanted to be a farmer to the assembled
family in my early teen years bought looks of disbelief, and comments
of derision. I clearly needed to take a different tact.
After spending a decade and a half being a ‘city farmer’ (landscape
gardener) following a decade in sales and marketing in the music
industry, I began to question how we could really make a difference to
this world and roll all of our beliefs and desires into what we were
The organic food movement was finally starting to gain momentum here in Australia, and thanks to the explosion of Farmers Markets around the country, regional foods and real, tasty, wholesome produce was finding a market. The universe was starting to align!
My Irish wife Therese, had spent three months as a WWOOF-er (Willing Workers on Organic Farms )
in Tasmania when she first returned to Australia early in 1993, and
remembers that she made a personal pact to always try and eat organic
food from that point on. A year living in the Southern Highlands just
south of Sydney confirmed for me what I already knew – we needed to
find a way to support ourselves so we could move to the country and set
up our own organic enterprise.
The final straw came when we witnessed a very animated David Suzuki on
his last Australian tour in Wollongong – aside from his awesome lecture
on the state of environment, climate change and the then general
inactivity of our governments, some of the last words that he said were
“and for heaven’s sake, EAT ORGANIC FOOD!” We both left the hall
knowing that our future path was set, now we just had to make it
A chance conversation with a mutual friend led to the partnership
with Lyndon and Beth being formed and the search for suitable land that
met all (or most) of our criteria began. Weekends were spent travelling
the countryside, following up leads that the hours of searching real
estate sites on the Internet had produced. Other weekends were spent at
Farming Field Days, most notably Mudgee and Tocal .
This went on for some time, and then one weekend after traipsing
around we came across a picture and description in the window of an
agent in Port Macquarie. Could this small property really be it? Calls
were made, website addresses and links forwarded, and an initial
inspection arranged. The property looked great – 22 acres bordering the
Pappinbarra River with enough infrastructure for us to start our
enterprise with, and it hadn’t had any intensive farming activity for
some years, perfect for intending organic farmers – and while the house
was no diamond, it was large enough for two mature couples to live in
and would be adequate until a second property could be purchased in
three years time.
Sums were done, mortgage brokers consulted, offers made, and … ACCEPTED. Wahoo.
All the logistics were sorted – removalists booked, tenants found,
leases drawn up, bosses enrolled in our wives ‘tele-commuting’, hours
spent dealing with Telstra about broadband (!!) etc – and on September
1 we were in.
Since then we’ve been very active, both in the local community here
in the Hastings Valley, and on ‘Near River’, our property at 1466. We
get to really appreciate the ambience of the rural lifestyle, the
birdlife and visiting mammals, and we are slowly repairing the
vegetation along the river bank by removing the noxious weeds that have
taken over. The front paddock that will be our 2.5 acre market garden
is taking shape, but as we are practicing bio-dynamic farming ,
herbicide use is forbidden, so the loathed Kikuyu grass is being
removed by hand after covering it by all matter of things (grass
slashings, corrugated iron, tarpaulins, black plastic). And seedlings
are going in. Last week our first livestock purchase arrived, two
Dexter cows, who are both due to calve in July.
What’s next? In conjunction with planting more seedlings, we need to promote our marketing vehicle, which is Community Supported Agriculture.
This refers to a partnership between a farmer and a community of
supporters. Initially started in Japan, then Europe and now very
popular in the USA, we are looking to help lead the way with this form
of farm produce marketing in Australia that reconnects farmers directly
with their customers. It also provides people with an opportunity to
know the people that grow their food, know where and how it is grown,
and have a connection with a rural community again. This will be one of
the ways we will contribute to the wider community.
And what else? Enjoy all that there is in the wonder of the regional
areas of this majestic country. And for those familiar with the Canned
Heat tune ‘Goin’ Up the Country’, yes the water really does taste like
image credit organic maven