The Earth whisperer

The story of Jim O’Gorman, one of the most highly regarded (and listened to) organic producers in New Zealand

Jim O' Gorman, New Zealander from Kakabui, South I

Jim O' Gorman, New Zealander from Kakabui, South Island, (photo credits, is the founder of the sustainable organization Dirt Doctor and one of the main protagonists in the 'Earth Whisperers' documentary. His products are largely requested by restaurateurs and authorities

"Earth Whisperers" is a 2009 documentary from New Zealand. It illustrates different approaches towards the earth, both as a “home” and as a source of sustenance. One of the people appearing in it is Jim O’Gorman. Jim lives in Kakanui, a small town in South Island, about a one-hour-drive from Dunedin. He is known as "The Dirt Doctor", because he lives with his hands constantly in the ground and because when over twenty years ago he decided to move here, near Omaru, he bought the most mocked piece of land available, considered as a bad investment and impossible to re-convert as it was agronomically deteriorated.

For about 7 years Jim had run the first shop selling organic products in Dunedin, namely Taste Nature, today a point of reference for the people who consider local and sustainable products as an emblem, but at the time it was very unsuccessful, too much ahead of time, given the mentality of the time. When he moved to Kakanui with his last 3,000 dollars and his beliefs with regards on how to cultivate the land, Jim wanted to grow food in the most sustainable way, without the use of synthetic products but only following the microbiological life in the earth.

He grows big cherry tomatoes, garlic, zucchini and whita and yellow potatoes

He grows big cherry tomatoes, garlic, zucchini and whita and yellow potatoes

The only variable that he cannot control is the weather. As for the rest, he has based his work on the direct observation of the biological cycles and on recreating the microbiological life in the earth; the rotations of his piece of land are usually contrary to the habits that producers have over here, however, not only has he had a constant harvest for the past 15 years and slightly ahead of others, which gives him a certain market advantage; on top of that, his products are so damn full of flavour and so good that their prices are higher than those of other products.

It was this approach, which today he teaches during his seminars, that has led him to be acknowledged as a trusted name and one who knows where to put his hands when others shake their heads; every year Jim requests detailed lab analyses assessing the health of his hectare and a half of land, to demonstrate the soundness of his opinion, a scientific proof and the absolute practicality of his approach.

A big space dedicated to learning

A big space dedicated to learning

The Dirt Doctor not only sells his organic products to the specialised shops of all of South Island and to gourmet restaurant up to Wellington, his products are also specifically requested by parliamentary authorities every time the English royal family sets foot on New Zealand, as they are considered the expression of the best food that can grow on this land. His cherry tomatoes are fabulous, the garlic is extremely delicate and doesn’t cause any annoying aftertaste, the yellow courgettes are everything but watery and the potatoes, both the purple Māori and the white and yellow ones, have a texture that invites you to eat them raw as well.

A BBC documentary will speak of him within a series created by small independent film-makers, showing the simplicity of Jim’s work and his innate capacity to draw around him simple enthusiasts, scientists, gourmands and restaurant professionals.


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