The story is an edited version of a conversation between Hazel Ferguson and Dave Forrest on March 27, 2012.
It contains stories about Arriving in the Northern Rivers | Moving in | Changing land-use | Dairying | Farm work | Markets | Off-farm income | Expansion | Succession | Organic farming | Bush Regeneration
Arriving in the Northern Rivers
From previous time spent up here we knew a little bit about the region and were looking in the hinterland of the little surfing town of Byron Bay which was fairly desolate in those days – the main street closed at 5pm. I remember in 1974 when I rode into town there on my motorcycle there was a sand drift where the roundabout is now and I had to manoeuvre my way through the sand drift.
In 1978 we were searching around the district as we’d rented a property to the south of Lismore, we had also moved up our small goat dairy and house cows which were then on that property, from the property that we were renting in the lower Blue Mountains while I attended agricultural college. So we’d put them all on the train and found this property where we could have them agisted, as well as ourselves, and we were pretty keen to find somewhere that was suitable for us. We had next to no money so that was a bit of an impediment as well and also at the time there weren’t a huge amount of properties that were for sale in the region.
It was a region that was, had been, over the gradual demise of the dairy industry particularly in the mid 60s into the 1970s and then in 1978 it was a run of 3 years of drought on the coast up and down and many people had moved into beef cattle. And beef cattle production was in a bit of the doldrums. So two things, one that people were not making that much money out of the land and they might want to sell some off and secondly, depressed prices at the time were a good thing for us.
I came across this block that Ian Weir, actually Keith McLean who Ian Weir the current real estate agent worked for at the time out at Federal and it was a steep, weedy block with the disused dairy bails on it that was owned by an absentee owner who bought it when the dairy farm was split up about 15 years earlier, or 12 years earlier, and he was looking for better country for his cattle and thought he had a sucker lined up (laughter) who was willing to pay him good money for this weedy block.