Volunteers share in a meal from produce harvested at Fossil Farm during its first week under new management.
Volunteers share in a meal from produce harvested at Fossil Farm during its first week under new management. Courtesy of Fossil Farm

Organic lovers find new life for Fossil Farm

YOUNG farmers in the Northern Rivers have joined forces to save one of the region's organic suppliers, Fossil Farm.

Responding to a social media call-out from Leah Galvin, who ran the farm for four years before her family decided to sell, Paul Chermak and Kirsten Daly have established a collective of groups and individuals all keen to continue the farm's productivity.

Mr Chermack said he and Ms Daly called themselves "focalisers: people who bring people together for community benefit” and the future of the farm was "looking really positive” toward the end of their first week in operation.

"Organic Family, Ubuntu, Earth Healers, Balanced Earth and[...] many other amazing initiatives have come together to save the farm and be a collective clan, giving yummy organics to locals, businesses and...the world!” read a post on Fossil Farm's Facebook page on November 19.

Mr Chermack said he had a vision for global collectively run farms and Fossil Farm would be a trial example.

"I plan to set this up on multiple properties throughout the region and the world,” he said.

"This is my main passion, I see nothing more important than bringing communities together and giving children a sense of belonging.”

Mr Chermack said he and other focalisers had ideas to grow the farm's business including "making inroads with new cafes; boot camps for youth rites of passage; and value-adding to produce”.

He said he was on the look-out for access to a community or commercial kitchen to make secondary products from fresh fruit and vegetables.

Fossil Farm has largely relied on volunteer labour to date, including a government WWOOFER scheme but Mr Chermack said he hoped to improve productivity and consistency by creating paid jobs.

The self-described newcomer to the Northern Rivers said he had extensive experience working in community projects that had sometimes left him "burnt out” but he was confident Fossil Farm would have a balanced work culture.

"I'll put in as much time as I need to for now but I wouldn't have gone in if it weren't a collaborative effort,” he said.

"My goal is to work one or two days a week on the farm.”

Mr Chermack said the farm's collective was temporarily generating income from other sources as volunteers focused on restoration of the garden.

"We've been so busy we haven't even finalised the agreement with the owners,” he said.

Agreements so far were amicable: Mr Chermack said one of the owners was in his eighties and "just want[ed] someone who is authentic” to run the farm.

The owner had promised to give the collective twelve month's notice if it had to leave the property for any reason but plans were for the farm to stay at its Mullumbimby address at least until the owner died.

Business arrangements for collective farms would be "different from farm to farm” but the model for Fossil Farm had sparked interest from various members of the Northern Rivers community, Mr Chermack said.

"Other groups are keen to come on board.

"Ten people came on Wednesday, they were packing bunches of parsley and so on and then we all shared in a community meal from the garden.”

Fossil Farm would be promoted as a drug and alcohol free-zone where "a child can plant an avocado or a mango tree and get to be a provider” said Mr Chermack.

Groups or individuals interested in contributing to the Fossil Farm project were invited to visit the business online or to contact focalisers via the farm's Facebook page.

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