Our eldest daughter Isaebella was born at home at 0710 on the 6th of March 1993 with many of our family and close friends attending. Happy 20th birthday our beautiful darling, we are so very proud of all you are and have achieved…
Also on this date (along with having our first baby!) Lisa Heenan & Darren Doherty both quit their jobs and started their farm planning business, then called ‘Loddon Campaspe Organics’. We also had a organic market garden at the time growing some pretty wild salad mixes and the world was all in front of us with a new baby, half an acre, a mortgage and a dream to apply what we understood to agricultural-scale landscapes in central Victoria.
Starting out we did the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS) and took on any job we could get, and after 7 months Darren did his first PDC (with Hugh Gravestein & Andrew Sheridan), partnered with Lisa’s brother Michael and started ‘Permaculture Design Services Bendigo’. Michael got a job and we got more and more work and did the field day circuit, borrowed 386’s, 486’s & Will Dalgliesh’s Pentium 90, joined a few internet chat groups and got heavily involved in Keyline Design. We worked with Tony & Nada, our 1st big job, and they bought us a Keyline Plow (which we still have) and with them and a whole lot of others we made that beautiful farm.
We bumped into Ben Boxshall and then all of his ‘Edenvale’ friends and took over the front of our house with the ‘Permaculture Corporation’. With ‘Modern Information’, ‘Silviculture Victoria’ & ‘Australia Felix LandPlanning Consultants’ we set on a path to really get rocking and we did so until growing pains caught everyone asunder except Lisa and Darren. We’re all still good mates and this crew together with Charlie Bovalino, Mark Johnston & Marilyn Sprague + others the Box Ironbark Farm Forestry Network (BIFFN) was born and proved to the world that value-added farm forestry IS viable in the drylands of SE Australia.
Darren did another PDC with 75 others and Bill Mollison up at Tagari Farm in Tyalgum. Paul ‘Speedy’ Ward was there and Bill was a treat. His farm was full-on and a year later Darren spent another week there doing earthworks with Doug Durrough, plus smoking many cigarettes and cups of tea well into the early hours swapping stories with old Bill and the others.
Our own act needed to sharpen up and when we met Konrad Ensor he showed us how valuable a surveyor could be. ‘Australia Felix Permaculture’ stood up and together with Dave Griffiths (‘Geometree’) and old school mate Jordan Ramage we started to rack up a serious number of projects per year. Geelong Grammar, the Shell Refinery and the Mornington Peninsula opened up and we were well beyond ‘full-time’.
On the last day of the century our beautiful Pearl came along and with her we changed where and how we wanted to be. Around that time too Bill Mollison gave us a call and said, ‘Its about time Darren started to teach’ and so we did the 1st of 2 PDC’s with Bill and Janet Millington. With the home farm now gone and our darling Zane now with us we met Wayne Parrott and moved to Maleny to work on his brave ‘Fountainhead’ for the year, learning Avocados and loosing Maggie along the way. We came back in December yearning for home.
We opened up shop again and George Howson of Dalpura came to our aid with plenty to do (still is!!) at his big Keyline forest and agroforests down the coast. Thanks to Stan Falloon and his old caravan (swapped for an olive grove) we had a little home over the long winter at Dalpura, getting us back on our feet. We also teamed up with Evan Davies, Brian Hosking and Tim Sansom and the crew at Gravel Hill Gardens and cranked up the Bendigo PDC with David Holmgren which got the first half of the ‘naughties’ off to a great start. Geoff Lawton stepped in and needed a hand and international PDC’s were at the offing.
We met Howard Yana Shapiro at Bill’s and he asked us to work in Viet Nam. 3 years later and on the 36th anniversary of Darren’s father John’s death in Viet Nam, Darren started working on the ground in that country. For the next 3 years we all lived there in Dong Xoai and backwards and forwards in a FIFO ‘Fly In Fly Out’ arrangement. What a time it was though training hundreds and working with the great team at Mars Inc. (esp. Howard, Smilja Lambert & Josef Toledano) and our dear friend Vuoung Dinh Tuan at the Forest Science Institute of Viet Nam or FSSIV. Plus having Paul ‘Ringo’ Kean spend his valuable time and hanging with Nguyen Cuu Phu or Mr. Phu!
Allan Yeomans book came out and with it came the choice: do we build our dream home or do we get on our bike and try and get this wasted carbon in the skies back into our world’s tired soils. The home is still yet to be built but many 1000’s are now very active in getting this sorted. Thanks to Wes Roe, Margie Bushman, Guner Tautrim, Steve Gabriel & Antonio Scotti all got up the Keyline Design Course in California, New York and Espana and wow what a trip. We met up with Joel Salatin in the US after we asked him to teach for more than a couple of hours and he’s been doing that ever since and to many 1000’s as well. Along with Abe Collins, Kirk Gadzia, Elaine Ingham, Eugenio Gras & others we got the whole Carbon Farming & Economy Series up and going. RegenAG soon blossomed back in Aussie with Kirsten Bradley & Nick Ritar, Nina Grundner & Ben Falloon, Georgie & Kym Kruse. Together we got that thing humming and now its all around the world.
Dan Palmer and Adam Grubb and the VEG team along with Nick Huggins and other bright sparks have taken on the Regrarians Platform and HM and this is quite gratifying to know that a new generation are thinking and acting outside of the box and building on the foundations and shoulders of all those before us.
All the while our 25 acres’ soils have grown over a foot, the orchards are in and the water, roads, utilities and house sites are all sorted. We’ve dreamt up the RAD and want to house ourselves and apprentices so we better get on with that house that needs building!!
We want to thank all that we’ve worked and collaborated with over the last 20 years: its been an amazing ride and we are so grateful we started young enough to not lose our drive or ambition for our family’s Holistic Context and the Charter we set forward. Here’s to our next 20!
Lisa, Darren, Isaebella, Pearl & Zane