Last chance to save Northern Rivers organic farm
ORGANIC retailers and consumers in the Northern Rivers risked losing a local supplier unless new operators for a certified garden were found this week.
The Galvin family in Mullumbimby sold the three-acre Fossil Farm earlier this year and former manager Leah Galvin said the new owners, already retired, were keen to rent out the gardens in return for 25% of gross profits reaped but expressions of interest so far had fallen through.
"My parents have owned it for four years but the beds have been in place 15 years” said Ms Galvin on Tuesday.
"Mum and dad now want to retire and I really need to be with my son.
"My vision was to continue on the garden, to keep that strong ethic of growing food for the Byron shire.”
Ms Galvin said the business supplied produce to well-known Northern Rivers' whole foods business Santos Organics as well as local restaurants, cafes and farmers' markets.
"If they can't get anything local they have to go to Brisbane” she said of Fossil Farm customers.
Ms Galvin used to invite up to six volunteers known as WWOOFers to work on the farm in exchange for food and accommodation until changes to national visa requirements came into force last year that meant all workers had to be monetarily paid.
The Byron Shire Council also directed the Galvins to remove a shelter built over an up-cycled bus used for WWOOFER accommodation.
Although Ms Galvin was still able to offer locals volunteer work in exchange for food, irregular availability and training combined with her family needs meant operation of the farm was no longer sustainable.
"I've spent the last few months looking for someone to take over the farm,” she said.
"It's a big job but it would make a great community farm.”
Ms Galvin said she had approached Byron Mayor Simon Richardson for interest but he said it was "out of his hands”.
She'd also asked the principal of neighbouring Shearwater School if students would like to add the farm to their existing educational gardens but the school had other budgetary commitments.
In a last-ditch effort, Ms Galvin posted an expressions of interest notice via social media in early November.
"I've got two or three guys that are interested in coming on board,” she said.
"They used to run an organic co-op scheme on the Gold Coast, they were doing 60 boxes a week.
"I'd need to train them up and put them in touch with the owner.”
Fossil Farm Features
- 3 acre fully certified organic (OGA) market garden with 75 garden beds (1 x 20 metres), established minimum 10 years.
- Fully irrigated with bore water (never runs out) with hoses and taps to reach all beds and T-tape drip irrigation watering all beds.
- Access to New Brighton farmers' market and Byron farmers' market weekly; established relationship with three Santos stores, local restaurants and Gold Coast health shops.
- Fully irrigated nursery. Room for trees and vegie seedlings.
- Fully equipped camp kitchen with fridge, cooker, cupboards, chill out space for feeding up to 20 people.
- Direct seeder machine.
- Large cool room with shelving.
- Access to refrigerated van and farm truck.
- 30 citrus trees -mixed limes, mandarins and lemons.
- Support and mentoring from Ms Galvin.
- 4 kms to Mullumbimby town and neighbouring Shearwater Steiner School.
Ms Galvin said she thought the new owners were "open” to the possibility of council permit applications for onsite worker accomodation.
Interested parties were invited to contact Ms Galvin directly.