Two Part Special
Monday March 16 and 23, 8pm on ABC
What happens when a neighbours’ dispute in a rural community suddenly goes global?
When farmer Steve Marsh decided to try growing organic produce and livestock the last thing he expected was to face his school mate, Michael Baxter across a crowded Perth court room.
Marsh and his neighbour Michael Baxter grew up in the close knit wheat belt town of Kojonup, in the south of Western Australia. They helped out on each other’s properties. Their parents were friends. Their wives went to school with each other. Their ties were close. “I remember going over and spraying a few of his paddocks and helping out whenever we could,” says Michael. “I worked for Michael shearing and vice versa”, recalls Steve.
But when Michael Baxter decided to try his luck farming genetically modified canola everything changed.
Across the fence, Steve Marsh had decided to tap into the growing organic market. He’d put his future on the line with a strict certification process that had zero tolerance for GM contamination.
The stage was set for a confrontation. When a willy willy came up late in November, 2010, it blew genetically modified seed pods across Steve Marsh’s property.
The court battle that followed attracted the interest of organic and GMO farmers nationwide and the dispute took on epic and tragic proportions.
“I’m sad that something so small, some canola, has wrecked the community of Koojanup.” Zanthe Baxter
“If this was just an argument between myself and my neighbour I don’t think it would have gone where it is today.” Steve Marsh
In this Australian Story special, both farmers and their families speak out for the first time. The program charts the personal fall out for the small community of Kojonup and explores whether the two different farming methods can coexist.