We recently completed our first four-day Certificate course on Norfolk Island and we hope that it will become an annual event. Norfolk is becoming a showpiece for biological agriculture, so the fifth day, where we build in a field trip to see the priciples in practice, was really something special. The course participants included equal numbers of locals and Australians and there were also people from the US and Africa. “The Big Night Out”, a feature of the course intended as an early bonding opportunity, involved a delicious 3 course meal and local wines. The special guests at this event included author, Colleen McCullough and singer, Helen Reddy, both of whom are Norfolk residents.

A standout from the thoroughly magical field trip was a visit to the farm of local vegetable producer, Matt Bigg. Matt was a perfect example of the potential of the biological approach, if a complete program is instigated. The various farm visits during the field day reflected different degrees of success and this was directly related to program commitment. Matt had acted upon all of the recommendations in his soil test, inoculated with microorganisms and bio-stimulants, conducted leaf analysis regularly and foliar fertilised to address mineral deficiencies. His crops were insect free, there was minimum disease pressure and the taste (nutrient density) of his produce was sensational. Here was the perfect example of the nutritional link to pest and disease control and the field day participants were delighted to sample nutrient-dense, chemical-free produce grown with the approach they had spent all week learning. The cabbages were like watermelons in weight and density. The cauliflower was the sweetest anyone had ever tasted and the carrots had that old world flavour that transported me back to my Grandfather’s vegetable patch and the taste treats that inspired me to become a lifetime vegetable gardener.

Matt also showed us his hydroponic operation. He had introduced some biological principles to his system a few days previously and there was a substantial increase in brix levels. Hydroponic food is notoriously ordinary (if not toxic), largely because of the nitrate dilution factor. Hydroponic produce is only grown with the nitrate form of nitrogen. Nitrate nitrogen is always taken into the plant with water so all other nutrients are diluted if nitrate levels are high (an inevitability in hydroponics). Nitrates are also recognised carcinogens so this food is not only seriously nutrient deficient but it is packed with a proven carcinogen. It is possible to neutralise these negatives by introducing biology into the nutrient tanks and feeding it with kelp and humates. The ammonium form of nitrogen can also be introduced by reducing nitrate inputs and foliar spraying the right form of N.

The field day lunch was wonderful. We gathered on a large verandah overlooking the ocean and were treated to a glorious range of natural foods (including the fermented cabbage we had made during the course) This “walking the talk” was a memorable feature of these five days as all of the food was fresh, local and memorable. All credit must go to Simon Bigg and Robin Adams from “Sustainable Norfolk”, who was the passionate force behind this initiative and many other positive changes on Norfolk.