North Coast pioneers of organic farming

Sue Mangan and daughter Lillian at the Organic Forrest stall at the Mullumbimby Farmers' Market. PHOTO: KATE O'NEILL
Sue Mangan and daughter Lillian at the Organic Forrest stall at the Mullumbimby Farmers' Market. PHOTO: KATE O'NEILL

SUE Mangan and her husband Dave Forrest are pioneers of the organic and local food movement in northern New South Wales.

They moved to the region from Sydney in the 1970s, on to a block of land at Federal where they had a family, worked hard, and turned their dreams of living off the land and creating an organic farm into reality.

In the 1990s they helped set up Australia's first organic farmers' market at Lismore, and Dave was instrumental in getting the country's first TAFE-accredited organic farming course off the ground. They have also been an integral part of grassroots action group TROPO (Tweed Richmond Organic Growers Organisation).

These days, Dave continues at TAFE, while Sue, since retiring from high school teaching, has taken on more of a role in their market garden, growing vegetables for their stall at the Lismore and Mullumbimby farmers markets.

Couple stock lots of goodies ...

Their stall, Organic Forrest, stocks organic vegetables and fruit, as well as ginger, turmeric and garlic when in season.

There is also a range of value-added goods from the farm, like organic macadamia butter, Davidson's plum jam and sauces, as well as Sue's home-made sushi ginger.

The ginger is also turned in a Chinese-style stem ginger in turmeric syrup - perfect on a cheese plate or as an ingredient in biscuits and cakes, and the syrup that is left over makes a warming and nourishing tea, says Sue.

Also popular on Sue and Dave's stall are their home-made health drinks, kombucha and jamu. The former is a slightly effervescent fermented drink made from sweetened tea, which has probiotic benefits, while jamu is a traditional Indonesian drink based on turmeric, which has anti-inflammatory properties.

"We first heard about jamu from one of our customers and a local naturopath but it wasn't until I had my knee replaced that I realised how healing the drink really was," Sue says.

The two drinks have proved extremely popular since they were introduced a few years back, and Sue says they are developing a new drink, based on fermented turmeric, which will be on their stall in coming weeks.

You are what you eat ...

Organics have been a lifelong passion for Sue and Dave and they continue to live and breathe it.

They say most people are unaware that conventional large-scale farming is actually based on a series of chemical inputs, from pre-plant to post harvest, as this is the only way to maintain such high levels of cheap, cosmetically pretty foodstuffs.

Organics, on the other hand, are kinder to the land, more nutritious and free from pesticides and chemicals that have the potential to harm human health.

Find Organic Forrest at the Mullumbimby Farmers' Market every Friday.

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