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So you didn’t give up TROPO or Biodynamics at Bellingen?
No, in fact I enrolled in a course at UWS, Uni of Western Sydney, a course in systems agriculture. I thought that might be able to help me to be more effective doing all this stuff that I was doing as a kind of administrator or active community member. But that didn’t help me much at all.
What was systems agriculture about?
Well, that’s a good question! At UWS it was something that grew out of their social ecology program. The Uni of Western Sydney, and a bloke who I have a lot of respect for, Professor David Hill – sorry, Stuart Hill. Canadian, English bloke, Canada and then Australia. Stuart had come up and given a talk in Lismore to TROPO – we used to organise these talks and everyone thought he was a pretty impressive sort of guy. An interesting bloke, he’d been an entomologist. He was working with farmers and wondered why they sprayed pesticides when there were no pests present in their crops. And he realised that the problem was with the human mind. He then went and did a four or five year course on Gestalt Therapy or psychology or something like that. And the interesting thing is, I’ve met a lot of people, a number of very high level people in agriculture, I know 1 guy ,Miguel Altieri at Berkley, who started out as a focussed, reductionist scientist and ended up being very holistic and engaging in the social world because, and as Stuart says, he says ‘Look we’ve got this sort of obsession with perfection, the lawn mustn’t have one weed in it, the face mustn’t have one pimple, or one wrinkle.:’ (laughs) And so he realised that was the problem and so I can sort of see it in myself. For me, one of the things about landscape that I treasure is beauty in the landscape so yeah. It’s one of the motivating forces for me but the thing is, a productive and stable landscape will also probably be a beautiful one, so if you work on those things you get the other.