Stephen Alton

My childhood and education opened up a deep love for the natural world, an endless fascination for growing plants and discovering the wonders of our biological world. In the early seventies I lived in the tropics of Queensland, chasing a dream of self sustainability, and worked on farms, (peanuts, potatoes, corn, avocado and lychee orchards) as well as beef, poultry and pig farms. I grew and sold my own produce from these of the road. Learned a lot! I developed my own small market gardens based on organic principles whilst working with Aboriginal children in a college setting. I learned to cook commercially and worked in that role in Universities and colleges for several years, and studied for an Associate Diploma in Aboriginal Studies, before returning to Far North Queensland and my old employer.

Eventually I returned to the outskirts of Sydney and studied, this time for a Diploma in Technical Landscape Engineering. Soil science and natural systems evaluation were a major part of my study. With this and my accumulated experience I gained employment with NSW National Parks, and spent 26 years with them, my job became one of interpreting the landscape of the Blue Mountains for the millions of visitors and for the people who live here. I retired in 2014, determined to continue my vegetable and fruit growing that had been a passion all my life. My motto of “don’t treat our soils like dirt” is borne of accumulated knowledge that this thin crust of organic microbes, bacterias, minerals and salts is what sustains us all, and is a tribute to all who have taught me to respect our Earth.