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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: Arriving in the Northern Rivers | Moving in | Changing land-use | Dairying | Farm work | Markets | Off-farm income | Expansion | Succession | Organic farming | Bush Regeneration

Dairying

We had dairy goats until 1994 where there was a change in legislation and it became illegal to sell raw milk or raw milk products – it has to be pasteurised. And Public Health said you either pasteurised or get out. Norco who were, at that time doing milk testing for us, we never had a problem with the quality of the milk and we also used to test with the DPI, that lab out at Wollongbar would sample and we never had a problem there. But Norco couldn’t set up a separate run to pasteurise such a small volume through their system and it was probably going to be an investment of $50 000 to do that on the farm. I already had a full time job, the native raspberries, the macadamias all in production and any money that I had was going towards… at that stage we were at the point of finishing the real house and all the money had gone towards being able to do that, so there wasn’t really any spare money. So basically I said “I’ve got enough to do”, and had to cut that out and concentrate on other things. By that time I was distributing throughout the whole of the Northern Rivers 2 – 3 times per week depending on how far away it was from Kyogle and Murwillumbah and Nimbin and Byron and Mullumbimby and Bangalow and Ballina and Lismore.

To shops mainly, only very few households along the way, mainly to shops. And so whilst I did really want to keep the dairy going there was a lot of reasons to get an excuse like, you’ve been told, you know, you are out of business rather than cough up all that money. We really took the easy option I guess and cut that out. But we still had the goats; they still perform at least that function of managing the weeds and improving fertility on the property. The stud industry collapsed in the state at the same time because most people that were milking had a sideline of selling stud stock. And if you weren’t milking and you stopped breeding like everything collapsed at the time and production there was no goat’s milk available in the state basically.

At least 90% of producers went out of business at that time. It was sort of like the cow dairy industry losing their market quotas in the 60s to Western Sydney through political changes, well this was just another one of those really. And I sold most of the stock but kept the worst of them in terms of the quality of the animals but that’s fine. I just moved a little buck before I came in this morning because he’s eating the snake beans off the trellis because Sue’s finished with them so he’s going along getting rid of all that vegetation we don’t need.

The rest of the herd actually go through the orchard areas and eat the lantana out of the native windbreaks that we’ve planted etc etc etc. They perform a useful function – I haven’t got time to be out there and it goes in-line without using the chemicals the goats can maintain it and that means the property maintains its function and doesn’t get overtaken by weeds. I’d already planted probably 85 or 90% of the macadamias that are in the ground now and the native raspberries were quite significant.

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