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This website aims to develop case studies of the development of farming practices and attendant transformations of local ecologies of defined blocks of land. Through these biographies of particular plots of land we are developing localised analyses of the wider historical trends in the political economy/ecology of the Northern Rivers.

Go to: Coming to the Northern Rivers | Market changes | Education: SoilCare and TAFE | Soil Health | Community | Land-use and the future of farming |

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It was through the TAFE that I was meeting people; within our industry it is still very conventional. The recommendations and all are just insecticides, they don’t offer other softer options although the avocado industry is supporting the Fruit Spotting Bug Project but the Fruit Spotting Bug Project, biological control is only part of it. Part of it is also better spray techniques and newer chemicals so there’s something in there for everyone.

I think Landcare groups in the farming sector, they really exist because that’s where you go if you’re not getting the information you want from the usual sources. I mean my idea would be that one day SoilCare won’t even be needed. That’s what I think would be good.

I remember when I took an organic farming course which your mother would have taken I’m sure from Dave Forrest and the first day someone asked the question “do you think all farmers will be organic one day?” and Dave said “no but hopefully one day all farmers will be using organic farming principles.” So you know, people don’t need to be organic but they can use those principles, which is, biological farming basically is what organic farmers use. So what he was saying is that people will gradually adopt more sustainable farming methods as they learn, another quote, I always love these quotes, a quote I like is from a professor from the University of Santa Cruz in California and he says “organic,” only I like to say “biological,” same thing, “biological farmers give up chemicals for knowledge.” So yeah it’s a learning process that we go through and the more information that’s available to you and the more you learn then the easier it is for you to pick up sustainable practises. The internet has made a huge difference to farmers as well. So much information you can get on the internet and that’s useful.

It’s not all research, a lot of the information is there for farmers. And it does help you translate … yeah it is translated for farmers, it’s for farmers to use so that makes a huge difference. Our website, although we don’t have a lot on our website, it gets a lot of hits because people are out there googling soil and soil health.

I can tell you when we started this in 1997 there weren’t a lot of people who wanted to talk about soil. We were lonely.

It’s amazing how things change; it’s not really that long a time period in the grand context of…

Oh exactly, when people get a little bit frustrated that people aren’t coming to the party I say “well it’s come a long way compared to what it was.”

We learn more every year and you learn a lot …just observation when people say to me, like the first year I started TAFE, people say “what did you learn?” And I say “the first thing I learned was to open my eyes,” because when you’re new to a farm or farming you can just walk around and look how neat and tidy everything is because you think that is good. Um… but then you start learning what you really should be looking at and looking for and um…you learn how to look. So, you open your eyes. You like to see lots of insects, if you walk into an orchard and you see none, and if you’re not constantly taking spider webs off you, something’s wrong.

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