An arson attack proved to be the fire that forged Australian Organic Limited’s (AOL) new Organic Farmer of the Year. 

Key points:

  • Mick Dan has been named Australian Organic Limited’s Farmer of the Year
  • His partner Kelly Burton was a finalist
  • Together they have grown Good Harvest Organic Farm’s team of workers and farmers

Farming is in Mick Dan’s blood. His grandparents were pineapple farmers in the Sunshine Coast’s picturesque Mary Valley but, until disaster struck, he had vowed never to follow in their footsteps.

The turning point came in 2016 when a suspicious blaze started in a cardboard bin and destroyed Mr Dan’s and his fiancee Kelly Burton’s Marcoola produce store.

“It was a really pivotal moment for us both personally and professionally,” Ms Burton said.

“We took a bit of time off, we went down to Tasmania and we visited some organic farms down there.”

The burnt out shop.

No charges have been laid over the arson attack that destroyed Good Harvest Organic Farm’s store in November 2016.(Supplied: Good Harvest Organics)

Gaining fresh inspiration to connect people with good food, Mr Dan, who was also lecturing in physics at the University of the Sunshine Coast, forged his own path without chemicals or pesticides.

The couple founded Good Harvest Organic Farm — growing and selling fresh, certified organic produce at farmers’ markets as well as home delivering boxes of seasonal fruit and vegetables.

A farmer standing in a field of greens.

Mick Dan in one of Good Harvest Organic Farm’s fields.(Supplied: Good Harvest Organic Farm)

From small beginnings, they now operate three organic farms of their own and, with support from a like-minded team of 20, work with other organic growers to feed about 1,300 families every week.

“We’ve got an amazing crew of people who are really aligned to understand the value of what we’re doing and how those little things that we all do each day contribute to feeding our community,” Ms Burton said.

Eight people sit and stand at an organics farm

Some of the team at Good Harvest Organic Farm.(Supplied: Good Harvest Organic Farm)

Their efforts have now been recognised on the national stage.

“We are still pinching ourselves,” Mr Dan said.

Ms Burton was thrilled to be a finalist.

“There were, I think, five of us in the category for Australian women in organic, so many amazing women,” she smiled.

“It’s just extraordinary to be able to be recognised in an industry that is quite male-dominated and to see so many other women trailblazing in the industry as well.”

Hands holding small organic carrots.

These organic carrots were pre-sold to restaurants.(ABC Rural: Jennifer Nichols)

AOL chief executive Niki Ford said 11 winners were recognised at the seventh annual industry awards, celebrating excellence and commitment to growing the nation’s $2 billion-plus organic industry.

For Mr Dan and Ms Burton, connecting with customers and educating them about organic food had built a community and proved to be their key to success.

“The reason why farmers are using a lot of pesticides and chemicals is because they’re trying to farm outside the seasons. If we can stick to the seasonality of food, I think we’ll see a lot less chemical use.”

Good Harvest Organic Farm has also just won the large food agribusiness category at the Sunshine Coast Business Awards. 

The organic enterprise has grown through the pandemic and this year Mr Dan was able to give up his job as a lecturer.

“It’s really come to fruition and it’s a dream come true for us to be able to do what we love and feed our community,” he said.

Posted , updated 

How an arson attack forged Australia’s new Organic Farmer of the Year
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