FARMER WITH HEART AND SOUL
Dennis has farming in his blood. The son of farmers, he began growing produce at the age of 8 on his family’s property at Kyogle in northern NSW.
“When my plants are happy, I am happy.”
Dennis is 71 years old but nowhere near done pursuing his passion.
For over 25 years he’s been growing certified organic produce at Dapto Community Farm near Wollongong. The community farm has over 100 members and is open to any passionate grower: it’s a thriving hub where everyone is welcome to rent a patch and grow produce for commercial or personal supply. People come to Dennis for a yarn and for advice – he’s always happy to lend an ear and a hand, and he’s always got a story to tell! He’ s a much valued member of the community and we’re very grateful to know him.
Dennis has been supplying Wholefoods House with certified organic produce for over ten years. He fills our shelves with the freshest greens and vegetables every week, guaranteeing they land in store within 24 hours of picking. You can thank Dennis for your favourite lettuces plus fresh herbs and staples like radish, daikon and zucchini.
“Farming has to be in your blood: you need to love it.”
Our founder Eliot has spent many weekends at Dapto Comunity Farm with Dennis, sharing the hard work and joy that comes from growing oganically. Dennis is exceptionally generous with his broad knowledge of growing and as with any great teacher, his passion is infectious.
The weather is never kind, Dennis tells us: within the space of an hour a harvest can be destroyed by severe heat or flooding, which can mean the loss of a year’s work and income.
Farming has to be in your blood: you need to love it. Otherwise you’d never take such a risk or still get up the next day to start all over again,” he explains.
Dennis began growing produce to sell at a small grocery store, near his parents’ farm in northern NSW when he was just eight.
At 18, he left the family farm and moved to Sydney to work in a steel mill, then onto Mount Isa where he worked underground for 11 years in one of the largest mines in the world. Eventually Dennis returned to NSW and settled close to Wollongong, where he’s been happily living and farming since. Even after two hip replacements Dennis can’t imagine a day away from the farm.
The beauty of growing produce comes from seeing it thrive and grow every day. It gives me great satisfaction.
Dennis is a hard worker, but when he hangs up his spade he loves a boogie to some seventies disco or time with his family. Every weekend, after the farming day finishes, you’ll find him on the dance floor of the local pub or with is daughters and granddaughter.
“As grownups it’s our duty to give our kids and grandkids all our love an hope that our love will carry them through their life,” he says.
When asked what he is most proud of, Dennis says “the beauty of growing produce comes from seeing it thrive and grow every day. It gives me great satisfaction. When my plants are happy, I am happy.”
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Editor: Alexandra McLeavy.
All images taken by Rita Ince for Wholefoods House with permission by Dennis Bagnall and Dapto Communiy Farm.