Navigation Menu
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.

Go to: Purchasing the farm | Off-farm income | Summit Coffee | Summit Organics | Markets | Community | Sustainability

Summit Coffee

[It was] Summit Coffee Plantation originally.

We did the coffee for probably 4 or 5 years longer after we got back so Dad sort of set a lot of that up. We came home on one of our trips and Dad said “oh you’ve got to come and look at this guy’s farm”. And he was down on one of the other roads. We went down and he was growing coffee and they were in full production and they looked so healthy. They were some good years too. And we thought “oh this looks really interesting” and when we left this old guy said here’s your future plantation and he gave us a box of seedlings. And we thought, ‘oh well, maybe we’ll give that a go’ and we took them home and planted them all and that’s how we really got into the coffee industry basically.

And then Dad said “I think we should go organic if we are going to do that let’s do it organic” because he’d been reading some stuff. I said “oh yeah we could do that”. He said “well it’s worth a dollar more a packet and I think it’s good, you know, to get away from chemicals” and I wasn’t that, you know, into it yet, but I thought well, it’s a bit of extra money, yeah we’ll give it a go.

I was looking at the profit but Dad was profit and also he wanted to move away from chemicals because he had worked with chemicals a lot through paints and agricultural chemicals for a lot of years.

He’d also been diagnosed with um, sorry I am just trying to think, prostate cancer not long before that and I think that would have had a lot to do with it. Because a lot of that’s heavy metal contamination.

We had a big mail order business that Dad set up and he was running. So we’d come home and pick the coffee and then he’d sort of roast it throughout the year and be sending it off all over Australia. And it was a terrific product and everyone wanted it but it was just, you know, the time, the labour and effort was, it was a huge thing and then the drought just sort of crippled it.

We were doing everything. As far as I know that was the first time that had been done in Australia, certified organic all the way through. Like the whole process from picking to selling, that had never been done organically certified organically at the time.

We were on quite marginal land up in the bush and it was a fair way away so there wasn’t any room for error you know like sometimes when you’re carving an existence rurally and you are kind of on the edge of making a go of it you only need a little bit to happen, a bit of a drought or something and then the bottom falls out of it.

They were further back up in the bush. Yeah, because we’ve got terrible wind here and we wanted them secluded from the wind. That was a bit of a problem because you know it was a good 10, 15 minute drive up into the bush just to with a tractor or whatever so all the materials and that. There was no road it was just bush tracks, pretty rough so everything had to be carted up the hard way.

When we came back we basically of course started a family so that kind of slowed us down a bit in the work side of things. We kind of, we still worked, we always worked really hard but I suppose Tanya had to work twice as hard then as she was mothering and picking. I don’t know how she did it. Our coffee plantations were up in the bush and the roads were terrible to get there.

They were pretty full-on days when I look back on it, what we used to do and I was forever on a brushcutter just trying to keep the weeds down because when you go organic you can’t use chemicals and the weeds just grow nuts. But we spent so much time, so many hours working and the return was so little that I kind of did the figures one day and went “this is ridiculous” because the return per hour was probably you know $5 an hour because coffee has so many steps in the processing and there’s so many of them going at once that you can be continuously washing and picking and processing and roasting and packing and it’s just so many things going on that it takes up all your time. And then when you work it out it’s just not much money and I suppose that’s why it’s always been grown in cheap labour countries or where you can use huge mechanisation.

Print Friendly