Organic food production practices have been used in Australia since the 1940s, but the push for certification and the development of an identifiable industry didn’t come until the 1980s.
The Northern Rivers has attracted many farmers and back-to-the-landers interested in ecological farming, and the industry has seen significant growth here, particularly through the efforts of those at the North Coast Institute of TAFE, the Tweed Richmond Organic Producers Organisation (TROPO), Landcare groups (including the recently started SoilCare, which advocates biological farming and is chaired by Bonnie Walker) and the Rainbow Region Organic Farmers Markets.
WWOOFing is also common in the area, providing people with opportunities to learn about organic food production and farmers with labour in exchange. A large WWOOF program is run at the Hare Krishna Community and Dharmananda also regularly hosts WWOOFers.
Dave Forrest’s involvement in the development of organic farming and education in the area is also often mentioned by newer farmers as one of their key sources of support, and in turn those who have learned from him, such as Rod Bruin of Summit Organics share their skills and knowledge in numerous ways.
Organic food production has become much more popular in the last three decades, but this also provides opportunities for knowledge sharing that can bridge traditional conventional/organic divides, such as that seen through Paul Wilson’s story about the Nimbin Valley Dairy.
Therefore, organic food is included as a focus here not because it provides a definitive answer to the question of sustainable food production, but because it provides an important snapshot of how many diverse farms have negotiated the question in different ways during the recent history of the Northern Rivers.