SECRET VENTURE: Mark Smith in his garden at Mororo.
SECRET VENTURE: Mark Smith in his garden at Mororo. Adam Hourigan

Mororo farmer helps Mel Gibson’s Fijian island

FOR the past two years Mororo farmer Mike Smith has been plugging away at a top-secret project involving an Academy Award-winning actor, agriculture and an idyllic Fijian island.

Now the secret's out.

Describing it as one of his biggest achievements, the agricultural expert spoke to The Daily Examiner about his role in helping Mago (pronounced Mango) Island, owned by actor/director Mel Gibson, gain full organic accreditation.

Mr Smith and his wife run a not-for-profit organisation called Organic Matters Foundation from their small farm just north of Iluka, aimed at training farmers in the South Pacific on sustainable farming and the importance of soil health through their soil program.

It was through this foundation and consulting experience that they were enlisted to undertake their biggest project yet, preparing the 1821-hectare private island in the northern Lau group of islands in Fiji for organic certification.

Two years of preparation and intense work on the ground culminated in the arrival of the official certification on June 17.

It is the first time a whole island has met the strict certification standards required by Australian Certified Organic (ACO) and the USDA National Organic Program (NOP), and Mr Smith said he was extremely proud to be associated with the unique project.

"It has been a challenge but incredibly rewarding to work on this project," he said.

"I've worked closely with the island's manager, Martin Livingston, to put the wishes of Mr Gibson in place, to create a closed environmentally sustainable self-sufficient ecosystem.

"Everything that comes off the island can be organic."

The private island now produces 12 organic-certified products for sale, including beef, lamb and goat meat, prawns and oysters, cinnamon oil, vanilla, coffee and coconuts.

Mr Smith said it was difficult to keep the project under wraps for so long, but necessary to ensure the privacy of the 58-year-old actor and his family.

"The only people who really knew what I was up to were my accountants," he said.

All proceeds from the two-year job have gone to the Organic Matters Foundation, to further their soil school program in the South Pacific.

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