By Vic Calthorpe (BOGI Life Member):
On the 8th october 2005, I attended the 30th Anniversary of the beginning of BOGI.
I was in fact, in attendance at the first ever meeting back there in 1975. It was held in Cliff Laws' front room of his house in Dorrington. Some of us were sitting in armchairs and the rest on the carpet. Probably no more than 15 in attendance.
I sometimes think of how those 30 years of organic growing have personally benefited me and those around me.
I had in fact, been involved with organics long before BOGI, as I had stared work on a farm, which had been using organic or natural methods for hundreds of years and the farmers lived so close to nature that they had a true sense of the fundamentals, and this they taught me. Unlike modern times, one didn't farm for cash crops, but did the right thing by the land.
I carried this knowledge with me for many years starting gardens on small plots wherever I stopped for a while, until, eventually I bought my own block and was able to plant and stay to see them all reach maturity.
It was around this time whilst attending a Queensland Herb Society meeting, that they announced another group was starting up by the name of the Brisbane Organic Growers Group, and were to meet every month.
There is of course, a tremendous amount of stories, characters and events I could write on, but the benefits for me were the youthful enthusiasm, the single mindedness of purpose, and lots of fun at all the meetings through the 1970's-1980's. In those early days on Petrie Terrace, it was so enjoyable I couldn't resist being President!
We had several moves in location as the membership exploded, including a move to the city (Elizabeth Street), which now houses the Hari Krishna restaurant.
Being a person who can't just sit back and watch, I became President again during the 1980's when we moved into a rather large musty hall (in Morgan Street, Fortitude Valley), with the illustrious name of the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes Grand Lodge of Queensland! It had no parking except a nearby church ground that would often provoke the resident vicar to interrupt meetings by yelling out, "Get those bloody vehicles out of my car park!" But the meetings went on and bubbled with enthusiasm. It was during this period with everybody growing vegies, flowers, trees and children, that having a competition seemed a good idea. And so the BOGI Fair was born!
The first ever fair was held inside the hall and was full of produce. Tables and tables, it was so well attended that latecomers had to stand outside on the pavement and view the proceedings through the hall doors.
The reason for BOGI's popularity in those early years I believe, was that we as a group were the only really active organic group in Queensland. There were no TV programs on gardening, no videos or organic outlets. In fact, most people were still burning lawn clippings in their back yards! Being an organic gardener in those days was at least, to be strange or weird. At worst, likely to overthrow the government of the day!
It was during the late 80's that the first signs of ill health amongst the population began to appear, e.g. emotional problems, cancer etc. Doctors were starting to prescribe organic foods, but there were no outlets. So from the minds of two young unemployed BOGI members was born the 'Good Food Co-Op'. The first organic shop of its kind in Brisbane.
Many members came our way through the shop, wanting to learn more about their health and how to grow it. But that's another story.
During this time, I learnt the art of public speaking and it was always a constant joy to climb upon that stage and feel the effects of a hall full of smiley faces coming right back!
The speakers and enthusiasm was so high it was a struggle to shut the meeting down and for me to return home before midnight. But it left me with a warm glow for days after. May a plant, seeds or cutting, a cake or even an appreciative kiss on the cheek was still being enjoyed and carried me onto our next monthly gathering.
I met many characters, hippies, elderly gardeners, retired nursing matrons, immigrant gardeners, old farmers, rednecks, famous people, would-be farming people, young people and lots of loveable weirdos, but most of all, they loved gardening and wanted to put the world to right - their version of course!
My garden and me flourished because of them and their shared knowledge. I can remember vividly many BOGI Field Days at my place sharing too many pumpkins, chocos, jam and sunny days.
After 20 odd years with BOGI, I was overtaken with an even bigger joy. We had 2 baby girls. Often I would bring the girls along, and now my girls have no problem public speaking!
But I was to take another road.
I got involved with unemployed youth and their plight, so for the next 10 years I shared my knowledge and love of gardening. They explored my place, ate my cake (lots!), and drank my herb tea - and we laughed a lot. As the years passed, my knowledge grew, my family shrank - my garden blooms ever brighter and I am still happy!
This is of course, only a thumbnail sketch of the benefits of the last 30 years of organic growing. But for me, I am pleased I chose it. God Bless You.