It’s standard industry practice for a freshly picked avocado to be coated in pesticide. It will then be packed into cold storage where it will remain for weeks or months, before it is artificially ripened with ethylene gas.

For organic avocado grower Kate Thompson, it’s a process that doesn’t make sense: “It’s just not how they are meant to be eaten,” she said.

That’s why all of the avocados that make it to Kate’s farmers market stall, The Organic Avocado, have simply been picked, graded and left to ripen naturally. They come as they are, which means they are not always perfect, but as someone who has had a lifelong passion for organic food and was shopping at organic farmers markets long before they became fashionable, Kate wouldn’t dream of doing it any other way

Kate, who also grows organic custard apples, citrus and pumpkins on her property near Alstonville, decided early on that she would only sell locally, and would keep it chemical free.

She’s made some huge transformations on her farm since she bought it 10 years ago, including the regeneration of a patch of Big Scrub rainforest, but her top priority has always been the health of her farm’s soil. She goes to great lengths to protect and improve the soil with mulch and ground cover plants.

“Down underneath you’ve got bacteria, fungi, protozoa nematodes and all these sorts of little critters, she said.

“When you have bare earth you’ve got sun beating down on it and your biology basically dies, so you want to get it covered. “

A good biology in the soil allows plants to access all the nutrients they need, which creates a win-win situation for the earth, the plants and for the consumer.

In addition to looking after the soil on her own farm, Kate encourages other farmers to do the same through her work on the local Soilcare committee. The organisation provides resources for conventional farmers to stop using chemicals and concentrate on soil biology.

To control common avocado pests like fruit spotting bug, which leave tiny ‘rocks’ in avocados, Kate is trialling the use of a wasp which lays its eggs on top of the fruit spotting bugs eggs as a form of biological control. But she says education can also effective:

“The fruit spotting bug is a natural insect in Big Scrub Rainforest. It comes along, gets to a hard green avocado then injects a cocktail of enzymes that soften up that little patch –  that cocktail of enzymes creates that rock…I tell my customers this. It’s really easy to avoid them, you cut them in half and pull the skin back that way and they’ll usually come out. And if you do get one, at least you understand what it is.”




• Story and pics by Kate O’Neill