While I'd agree with the general premise that certain developments are inappropriate on prime agricultural land, I think Greg Bennett is wrong to include the Buddhist community's planned expansions as one of these developments (Echo, January 19).
Sure, if we were talking about planting another Goonellabah -tyle suburbia on Tullera, or of undertaking coal seam gas mining there ,I'd also be jumping up in protest, but we are not. We are talking about small intentional communities living a village lifestyle. Their aims as stated in the article on page three of the same issue are to expand on existing vegetable gardens and fruit orchards and to achieve a higher level of food production. They have 95 acres to work with, some of which have been dedicated to rainforest regeneration and improving food and habitat for native animals.
So I'd have to ask Greg and the ratepayers he reportedly represents - what is wrong with this plan, why should you oppose it?
When you look around the Northern Rivers farmlands you see a lot of it is under utilised, and much of it tied up with broad scale monocultural pursuits, ie raising cattle, macadamias and coffee - often quite machine and chemical intensive industries. While the returns may be (at times) good for the farmer and the export industry, these products do not ensure any food security for the populace. We need far greater diversity of agriculture to feed ourselves first and cut down the food miles.
This Buddhist development is a great example of people coming together in an organised way to farm for themselves a broad range of crops. I think what Greg describes as "a small village in the middle of the agricultural zone" is actually a very sensible approach to sustainable living and it will not result in us losing our ability to feed ourselves, quite the contrary. The more people that can directly connect with the land and be engaged in food production the better.
The model of the ageing farming couple sitting on a ridiculously large land holding, still paying off the mortgage, with the kids all gone to the city to find work, is not a great one to champion.
There is ample room for more people on the land and I would contend that to effectively and sustainably grow, pick, pack, process, value add and market agricultural produce we need strong viable communities settled on the land together and sharing the responsibilities of land management, just like in the good old days.
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