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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.

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Off-farm income

Shortly after they purchased the farm I went to the Queensland Agricultural College for 2 years and did a Certificate in Animal Husbandry up there. So basically, I was taught in conventional agriculture and my father had come from a conventional background as well.

In the 80s after a few years of struggling to get things happening and financial difficulties my brothers decided to return to the coast and just continue with their building and my other brother was in another job but basically they sort of found it was easier to go and earn some money somewhere else. So my father and I pretty much had a bit of a pact that we were going to see this through no matter what would happen because we were pretty keen on getting there in the end somehow. So I was actually working off farm in the 80s as well on a dairy farm down the road.

I found it really difficult to work away and try to get something started here with just my dad so I came up with this brilliant idea to borrow some money because when I went to Ag College they taught us how to borrow money and how to make an application look good so I concocted a big plan and typed it all out and went to the bank and got the money quite easily and the bank manager said “it’s probably good you borrowing this money now coz I think things are going to tighten up”, and I didn’t really know what that meant at the time. We got the loan and within a couple of years the interest for that loan had gone to 18%. So I’d made a couple of not-so-wise investments at that young age so I was in a position of working off farm and paying debt and trying to grow some vegetables on the farm at the same time and it was, I couldn’t see any way out of that. So then basically I decided to go and chase some money somewhere and I jumped on my 250cc motorcycle and rode all the way to Victoria and started harvesting fruit which, that was in 1987, I started and it took probably 13 years before I returned to the farm full time.

In that time I had met my wife and we had paid off all the debt and I’d returned with, you know, we had invested a fair bit of money into coffee then and I had enough cash to purchase our house outright. So that was, the plan was never to come back and have to suffer that kind of financial strain you know and then pay off a house as well, that was just not going to happen.

I was sending money home to Dad and we were constantly talking about, you know, what we should spend it on and he was looking after the coffee plantation, the young trees and then we’d come back for 2 or 3 months of the year and work like crazy and then go back. It went on; yeah it was about 13 years that went on for.

But it was necessary, you know, it had to be done. We delayed a family and everything until we could actually come back to a house and start the family and because we knew once we came back we wouldn’t be flush with funds we’d just have, the timing was, that the coffee trees would be starting to produce and that would give us enough income to survive you know. And I mean the plan worked. But that was…. so that was probably right through till about 19 or probably close to 2000 because my youngest son was born in 1998 and we got the house a few months before he was born. Say 1998 was when we got back. So the late 80s and most of the 90s when we worked away.

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