We planted about 10 000 native trees [prior to 1984] that were basically all forestry trees because that’s all that was available at the time. There were a few remnants on our block, the top end of the block was less weedy, had four relatively original native rainforest trees and then over the other side there there’s actually a little stony area that is mainly… had a lot of natives as well as a lot of camphor laurels around that little native area, and then quite a few sporadic… but would only number say 100 in the whole block in the nether regions of the block down the gulley etc. We had to start the Richmond Valley Reafforestation Association and the Tweed and Brunswick Reafforestation Associations to get access to trees, there were no nurseries in the region except with European roses and things.
There was one in Lismore, in Keen Street there was a nursery that sold peaches and flowering shrubs and natives weren’t very common. It was really unusual until the 1970s that people had native gardens. You had to be a really different sort of person, a bushwalker or something like that who would think about those things. All that was available though to put on the farm were these timber trees which, they’re good and many were habitat for koalas and useful, but they weren’t actually indigenous to the property.
I just wanted to do something good and planting trees I thought would be good so I planted out all the ridges and the road sides with these trees. In hindsight I would like to have used other species and I have done since. So there are many of those there and in fact now there’s signs on the roads “Careful Koalas Crossing”. Previously there were no trees and no habitat and no koalas. The eucalypts were over the other side of Byrangery Creek where there was this total change in soil type and vegetation associations and the eucalypts were native to that other side and not on our side, the Federal side, they’re native to the Goonengerry side. So they’re over our side now, had to travel a bit, and there’s lots of birds and the black cockatoos come through and screech and hang around in the tops.
Actually there’s thousands of birds that utilise the property which didn’t in the past. There was only the flock pigeons that come through at Camphor Laurel fruiting time and are still very significant coming through. The diversity of birds that have come in that time, it’s a huge change, huge change, and whilst with some of my crops I grew from Invasion Day in 1988 I planted native raspberries, actually not the indigenous ones, but ones from the Atherton Tableland which had more agronomic qualities, I planted those and have been interested in rainforests and one of the interests was looking at bush foods in terms of demonstrating that you don’t have to cut it all down to have something worthwhile.
There’s actually a lot of values from an agricultural perspective, these are some of the values you can have. So to get that value, put them in the market place. I had those for 16 years from 1988 as a very significant commercial crop which we used to send to Sydney but the Silvereyes and Fig Birds would, at different times, they were always feeding through the different times, when you’d notice it when there wasn’t a lot of fruit on it’s quite significant the amount of fruit they were eating. At other times there was a lot of fruit so not too much of a problem. But that brought a diversity in the level of habitat, it was all part of actually designing the property differently in terms of well, what would you do now, compared to the historical farming context where you basically get rid of everything and start again. So ours was “well how do we actually develop a farm that accommodates environment as well as productivity?”
And hopefully there’s some strength for the farm in that but just in general that, within the community, that farmers are actually the bad guys that are doing all these things and ripping and tearing and spraying all of those things that actually, that negative side of farming which was more and more becoming apparent in this diversity between myself and a lot of the broader community, was that ‘farmers were all bad and we want to stop farming and it’s a good thing to not have farms anymore in the district’.
Whilst I might have planted 20,000 trees on the property there’s probably a need for …that’s probably only 10% of the requirement for the areas that should be regenerated … But particularly the home farm I’m talking about in terms of that because it’s such a steep and weedy property it was a lot of land that really is…could be brought into production but is better off spending our time on working on the areas that are more suitable to bring into production and it’s an opportunity to…you know it adjoins other areas on other people’s farms that are similar and why not utilise those areas for the native eco systems and the wildlife corridors ….
The wildlife itself and all those ecosystem services farmers are potentially the major providers on the planet but we’re stuck in the idea that you don’t give us enough money for our products so we’ve got to clear every square centimetre and plant fence to fence and so we can’t have those things because the community actually doesn’t pay us enough for the product we’ve got we can’t have those things on the farm. But if we can work out farming systems where not only do communities start to get involved with our production system and paying us a fair price for what we’ve got and also part of that fair price is the ability to regenerate and repair the environment so everyone’s better off. Everybody’s winning through that whole process but it’s still the farmer that’s got to do it.
You’ve got to work towards those outcomes if we’re visioning what the real world should look like then we’ve all got to work towards those outcomes to achieve it, it won’t occur by itself that’s for sure. I work with those farmers all the time I know where you’re coming from they tried to beat me too. Yeah and you can see exactly why they’ve got those viewpoints. Like those vegie farmers at Cudgen, why should I do anything at all except supply the supermarkets with what they want when they want. It’s all going to go under houses. They treat me like dirt so that’s what they get.
That’s been their experience for forty years. It’s all I can do. Fair enough. You know I’ve worked with the dairy industry as well and there’s components of that as well. At the end of the day all that matters is the amount of milk in the vat. Nothing else matters that’s all they pay us for. Nobody else could care less. That’s what they believe. And I can see why that message is coming to them. It’s loud and clear. You’ve got to be stupid not to get it.
It’s really important and the more we can target it and be able to have the time to get with those groups of those farmers such as we discussed and it goes for graziers as well. The more you can get to them the more you find that …that….there is a path way of opportunity for them that they can actually pick up without losing their tools or whatever it is that they’re hanging on to. And it actually …there’s a lot of practices that …it’s not going to be too hard for them to adopt if we can just get to that first stage with a level of awareness that there is hope, and that there is actually a format that they can follow and they can actually gain a lot of opportunities in their own business and that they can more easily do some things with natural, biological methods, then that’s a really big lesson in their lives. I do think that there’s a huge amount on offer at the moment and it’s happening in all the Western countries. We’re not alone any more we know a lot more than we did. Everything’s in your favour these days you’ve got to get the coordination of these things up to speed really and that so that’s our opportunity.