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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: Family history | The Farm | The River | David, Jenny and the Farm | Self-sufficiency and Aquarius | Cattle and floods | The landscape | Other on-farm agriculture | Buying and selling land | Poor economic times | Family partnership on the farm | Mill politics, harvesters and cane cutters | Changing methods | Chemicals | Market impacts and government subsidies | Generational change and succession | Impact on cane growing | Environmental issues | Politics of cane and the mill | Neighbours

David, Jenny and the Farm

David: I’m 65, born in ’46. I’ve got an older brother who was born in 1941.

How did you end up on the farm, tell me a bit about that?

David: Well I had – there was my father and my uncle ran the place together.

Jenny: So the uncle, Jim, he lived in this house.

David: He was the older brother.

Jenny: And the younger brother….

David: When Dad got married..

Jenny: Ian..

David: They built a house, that bottom house for him [the second, smaller house can be seen from the top house].

Jenny: And Marie didn’t have a house because she was a woman but she was trained as a nurse, a nursing sister which was a bit modern for those days.

David: Anyhow – up in my uncle’s family there was… a girl and then a son and then another girl and in our family there were two boys. Well got the girls out, they weren’t interested, and my cousin Peter who lived here… don’t know how we’ll describe this…um….he was sort of fairly wayward and not very reliable. And my brother, my older brother wasn’t interested except he got married when he was 19 and had four kids fairly quickly and they went to Newcastle so the kids could get educated and stuff like that. So when my father and uncle wanted to retire, they were just going to sell it and some of my friends and me got together and we sort of bought it and I came here and managed it.

Well take me back a bit because. In the meantime you’d gone off to teacher’s college is that right?

David: Yeah. Well both my parents always said – you want to do something before you come here. And I wouldn’t have chosen teacher’s college except I’d failed in English and did the HSC.

Jenny: The leaving certificate.

David: And by the time I’d done it again, I wanted to do vet but by the time I’d done it again I couldn’t be bothered spending the five years at vet.

So you went off to teacher’s college…

David: As sort of a quick fill in sort of thing. I taught for oh… 2…4. Four years, I taught around… oh central west and northwest.

And so what was the year then that you bought the farm?

David: 1970 it was.

And why did you do it with friends?

David: Because I didn’t have any money really. I was just the manager, there were four partners.

Jenny: And a partner. You had money in it too.

David: Oh yeah I was a partner.

Jenny: There were four equal shares. Who was the… I can only think of three.

David: Graham and Yvonne and Tom Hyslop.

Jenny: Oh right. I was here by then.

David: They were, two of them were business sort of people, one was a chemist, one was a publican, and Yvonne the wife of Graham, she was our next door neighbour lived down the road. So that’s how they got involved really.

And what was their reason to be involved?

David: Just ‘cause they thought they’d make money I think. They were sort of business people and I …they lived at Gosford and Yvonne and Graham were wanting to get out of Gosford anyhow. But they didn’t live here they lived at Tregeagle but they didn’t really have any active… very little active part in it.

But they did actually see it as an investment so it wasn’t to help you out or anything it was actually a business investment?

David: Yeah. And if they hadn’t come along I don’t know what would have happened really. Just fluky that they were wanting to do that when I was wanting to get out of teaching.

Right. Well we might as well bring Jenny in.

Jenny: I met David out at um, out at Coonamble when he… in his… probably his second year of teaching and my second year of teaching and … we left teaching in 1971, well at the end of 1970 we’d left teaching, and we took our little backpacks and headed off to Europe on a ship like everybody did and spent six months in Europe travelling around. … The hippy trail type thing, although we weren’t really hippies but that was what we did, you know, the rite of passage at that time. Then when we came back in about July, I went to Narromine because my family lived in Dubbo, so I went and stayed with my family in Dubbo and taught at Narromine for six months. And then we got married right at the end of 1971, the second last day, and so we’ve just had our 40th wedding anniversary. And then I came over here and in those days it was who you knew to get a b on the coast. It was very difficult now so Pearl, David’s mother, had an old friend who was the area director of education or whatever the equivalent was in those days, so she went and saw him and I instantly had a b at Evans Head where I went for 4 years and taught full time at the primary school at Evans Head. And during those 4 years we still had the partners didn’t we?

David: Yeah.

Jenny: Yeah so it was just idyllic really, it was so peaceful and quiet and lovely and the hippy thing was going on and we went up to Aquarius Festival and we had the cows and the chooks and the pigs and sheep and vegie gardens and the whole hippie thing you know the whole Earth Garden thing really. Not hippy really more Earth Garden self-sufficiency thing. And then in 1976 at the end of 1975 I left teaching because Anna was born at the end of January in 1976. And then we had Andrew in 1977 and we were really into the self-sufficiency thing then. And I can’t remember the time frame of us buying out the other partners. The first partner we bought out was the Hyslop, Tom Hyslop quite early in fact I think he was gone by this stage, so then we only had Yvonne and Graham who were the old family friends. I can’t remember when we did that, can you?

David: It was… wasn’t that long ago like 1990 or something I think.

Jenny: Oh no it was well before that, the children were quite small I remember.

David: I’ve got the deeds for that, I’ve got the solicitor’s stuff somewhere.

Jenny: So anyway, somewhere along the line we bought everybody out so then the farm was all in our name. Mmm.

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