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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


When did you start the WWOOFer programme?

Leigh: Right almost from day one. Mid-80s I’d say. Yeah.

Ray: We always had our own WWOOFer programme but it just wasn’t formalised, because, from as long as I can remember there were people coming and going and staying for a while and you know. We’d feed them and they’d pitch in and help out with whatever was going on. But yeah that would have been the ‘80s when we found out about WWOOFing.

How did you find out about WWOOFers and how did you bring that more formal structure into the way you worked?

Ray: I don’t know how we found out about it, it was in one of the magazines, wasn’t it?

Leigh: I know. One of the ways Ellen and I found out about farming in this area and vege growing and so on was there were two organisations, the Lismore Organic Growers, which was kind of old Alex Hunter who was involved in that. And they were fairly old timers from the area but they were interested in organic growing and so on. And then there was the Nimbin Organic Growers, which was much more [laughs] much more alternative, I suppose. And that was chaired by a lady called Mary Ali, who was a doctor who had a farm up at Koonorigan. And another lady who lived at Mt Nardi called Pauline Williams, and somehow Pauline Williams was involved in the establishment of WWOOF. And so she and a bloke down in Victoria called Lionel Pollard – so I hear about it and so Ellen and I used to go to these organic growers field days, they were terrific, probably one Saturday a month or something like that. That’s how you saw what other people were doing. And then Pauline mentioned WWOOF and it was just getting going and somehow it gradually kind of merged in with our informal WWOOFing sort of thing and so by the mid… our number in the WWOOF book is NU001. In other words we were the first, you know, one in this area, the North Coast. I think NU, each area/region gets a little two letter code and we were the first one on this area. This was probably 1985ish when we kind of formally made a connection to it, yeah.

Ray: We get a lot of WWOOFers that are very interested in agriculture, whether they do anything with it when they leave is …? We get a lot of people here that have been interested in permaculture particularly, that seems to be one of the buzz processes and so they hear about Dharmananda and they think, ok.

Leigh: Well young Joss who you met over at the shed, she’s a WWOOFer. She’s English and she did a two month course down the road there in permaculture, it’s called the Permaculture Research Institute, down at The Channon, and they often drift up here after they’ve done their time there.

Ray: We try and have no more than two WWOOFers at a time. Occasionally we get over that but most of the time we’ve got WWOOFers, I don’t know how many a year we’d have.

Leigh: I think something like sixty a year.

And do you have somebody who co-ordinates it?

Ray: Yeah, yeah, that’s pretty structured. We have a work day or work morning on Fridays and a gardening morning on Saturday, so on those two days whoever needs help just co-ops one of the WWOOFers and they’ll help out. But on all the week days, apart from Friday – and Sundays is the day off for WWOOFers, so they don’t have to work on a Sunday – but the other four days there is a co-ordinator assigned for each of those days and so they’ll direct the WWOOFers on those days.

Leigh: And Carol tends to organise who comes. Back in the old days it used to be mostly by phone. But now it tends to be done by email. So Carol’s the email address. And we have a kind of a booking register and people get booked in.

Ray: We try, and we prefer WWOOFers to stay longer periods.

Leigh: A couple of weeks.

Ray: It means we don’t have to keep orientating new people, so we always encourage people to stay. But when they come we have got a three day period when we say we can’t guarantee more than three days – cause if it doesn’t work out that’s it. But that usually doesn’t have to be invoked. But we usually ask them when they ring, or email us, how long they want to stay; what’s their preferred time, and then we’ll usually pencil them in for that time, so that we don’t book someone in over the top of them. A number of the members here came as WWOOFers. And we’ve had WWOOFers stay for up to a year I think that haven’t become members. But that would be about the longest. Some keep coming back.

Leigh: Yes, people trying to connect with the place, they sort of see it as a second home or important step in the ladder of their life.

Ray: Yeah, I think it inspires a lot of people to go on and do stuff at their own places.

Leigh: We had that bloke come back from France remember, recently? He’s a bloke – when he was eighteen somehow he lobbed in here and it must have been way back in the eighties – and the experience here kind of inspired him and somehow he found himself in France, he was a young Australian bloke, and he ended up working on organic farms there and he’d never forgotten about this place. He showed up about a year ago, didn’t he? With his wife, he’d been married a couple of times and but he took up being a farrier over in France, putting shoes on horses. Yeah, that’s how he made his money. So it’s amazing that, you know when you look at the impact this place has on people’s lives. It keeps you going, one of the things that keeps you going I suppose. Keeps me going.

Ray: Yeah, yeah.

Leigh: Well I think it’s encouraging to think that this place is helping people to set a direction in their life, a positive direction. As this guy was saying, he was a young bloke, he didn’t know what he was going to do and ….

Ray: There was Masako – she went back to Japan and she and her husband set up a business growing vegetables, for a business. Selling them at the markets and stuff.

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