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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.
Ray Flanagan, Leigh Davidson, Carol Perry & JJ Bruce’s Stories

Ray Flanagan, Leigh Davidson, Carol Perry & JJ Bruce’s Stories

By on Jul 1, 2013 in Dharmananda | 0 comments

Go to: Introductions | Dharmananda: from individual title to a multiple occupancy | WWOOFers | Growing food | Neighbours | Introducing Carol | The early years: creating community | Neighbours | Channon Markets | The Fire Brigade | Generational change and building community | The farm’s history | Bananas | Old roads | Finding a sense of belonging | Mr deSorzi | The Ivans | Back to the early days | Being a local

The farm’s history

Carol, what did you know about this land, this farm when you bought it or have learnt since?

Carol: When I came here the dairy industry was in a state of collapse – sorry the beef industry was in a state of collapse and people were desperate to sell their land. And so the land was very cheap because of it. But prior to that my understanding of the history was that if we go back from this point in time, prior to the beef, or concurrent with the beef, it was bananas and passionfruit, and that’s pretty much what sealed the death knoll to the fertility of the land. It was completely depleted. That, and before then it had been the dairy industry and then the two wars had, with the men going to war the land had gone really backwards, because they cleared it all off so they had to start moving towards bananas, passion fruit and beef. And prior to that they’d logged out all the red cedar and sent it to England for furniture making. So the land, its rainforest land – the soils were very thin and so it was all washed off and basically into the ocean. And the creeks all became silted up so the flooding got worse and, yep it was very, highly degraded land. It needed a huge amount of care to bring, to restore it, which is what Leigh and Ray have done a lot of.

Had you been interested in that restoration, when you were looking for the right place?

Carol: Oh yes, oh yes. So a lot of tree planting, a huge amount of tree planting, when we bought, shortly after we bought. Oh that’s right, there was this weird infestation of Noogoora burr. There’s a little ridge up there that we call the golf course. The patch of burrs was a few metres by a few metres. So before we went to Laos I said ‘Wayne will you get rid of that.’ But he didn’t. And when we came back two years later the whole land was covered in Noogoora burr. Covered. And we did years of pulling out, you just had to go and pull it, and we went and pulled it and I used to see the Noogoora burr in my dreams. So we did a huge amount of that and then of course lantana. But Noogoora burr was a very vigorous – it’s the burr that stuck on the cows and native animals so it had a very good dispersal mechanism and it was a noxious weed, you had to get rid of it as well. But we wanted to get rid of it. We wanted to restore, to bring the land back. And you could see what a bad state it was in. Even to the people from the inner city.

How did you come to know about the history of the actual farm; the land that had been farmed?

Carol: I can’t remember how we came to know that.

Ray: Probably just talking to the locals.

Carol: Probably just talking to the locals. Well I suppose history was already on the land, there were the banana sheds, and the pub now was the old butter factory, so it was all around you. And on the farm there were all the old banana…

Ray: Flying foxes.

Carol: Flying foxes for bringing the bananas down and I know deSorzi, Mr DeSorzi who used to live next door and walk through the land would tell us a lot.

Ray: That’s right.

Carol: And you know, he stopped doing bananas when they stopped letting them use dieldrin. So we knew the banana farms had been…

Ray: He was using arsenic.

Carol: Was it arsenic? Anyway dieldrin was also another one. And he told us a lot about the poisons that were put on. But there had been passion fruit up on this ridge here, where my house is, and that is completely denuded of topsoil where my house is. It’s very, very hard to grow anything. I do grow stuff but it takes a huge amount of work because the topsoil is completely gone, from bananas, from the passion fruit.

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