Mountain Range farm and Dapto community farm

Lance Carr feeds refugees — body and soul

The best of friends!

Lance Carr's farm and community garden at Dapto originally started out as one of the largest flower farms in NSW in the late 1960s.

Since taking over the farm 15 years ago, Lance has worked with a group of passionate organic farmers to create a hub for community farming and a social enterprise in the Illawarra region.

With the benefit of raised concrete beds to counteract the floods that would otherwise wash away the well-prepared beds, while also preventing the spread of disease, he engages with over one hundred farmers made up of retirees, the unemployed, refugees, participants in work for the dole programs and women's centres, as well as working people interested in growing their own fresh healthy food.

Lance also runs a large wholesale nursery on the site, where he specialises in the export of Araucaria species and Kentia Palms, selling large plants to councils, landscapers and retailers, but he gets as much pleasure helping this community succeed as he does putting bread on his family's table. The 5.3 hectare farm enables refugees to grow their own traditional vegetables, using their own methods of growing, which is a considerable help to the unemployed and those working for the dole, whom they work alongside.

The organic produce is sold at local farmers' markets, as well as being shipped out to local retailers, organic wholesalers, delivered to local families via a box system and also through their Monday morning on-site farm market.

Whilst growing food is what brings this fascinating group together, it is friendships and the social interaction that is the glue that binds. Lance has a supervisor to co-ordinate the group, assisting the inexperienced and applying the rules to keep the cultivation standards high.

Lance makes a living exporting Araucarias and Kentia Palms overseas where Americans and Europeans have a much greater interest in planting these little grown Gondwanaland treasures that evolved over 200 million years ago.

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Whilst the Norfolk Island Pine is well established along the coasts of NSW and Victoria, the revival of our local plants seems to have been confined to Eucalypts and natives of the hot dry plains, rather than our almost extinct rainforests.

There is big demand for the New Caledonian or Cook Pine as a Christmas tree in America, but how long will it take for Australians to appreciate its virtues?

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