‘Farmers want to pass on their land in a better state than when they started.’
I’ve heard that adage a few times in my travels.
Why wouldn’t I? I’m the product of a farming family and agriculture has played a consistent role in my life. Or do I just believe it because I want to believe it? After all, I’m also in the natural resource management game and otherwise I’d be out of a job……. right?
I’ve had the good fortune of meeting a few inspiring characters who have really made a mark on achieving that ‘better state’, and better yet, they can document it. Here are just a couple of examples……
I can’t actually remember when I first met David or ventured onto ‘Allendale’ at Boorowa in Southern NSW, but it was impressive. David was well known as a local Landcarer and was beavering away increasing native vegetation cover to 15%.
While planting trees and increasing biodiversity is a staple feature at ‘Allendale,’ it’s just the tip of the iceberg. David became a holistic farming convert, had a massive shift in thinking and from that completely changed his farming enterprise after concluding that the bottom line just wasn’t stacking up. David wanted to change not only his financial situation, but make positive impressions on his land resource and people resource, his family. Fast forward about 20 years and soil organic carbon levels on Allendale have increased by 3.5%.
There’s much more to this story, about 20 years more and much has been written about the Marsh Family. I came across a comprehensive article written by Matt Cawood last year:
Another farmer who can document increases in soil organic carbon levels is Colin Seis, pasture cropper and conservation farmer from Gulgong NSW.
Colin has been working since the 1990’s on this low input system which combines grazing and cropping, turning off stock while also producing grain. Something he and friend Daryl Cluff came up with in the 1990’s. Although Colin enjoys a 650mm annual rainfall he has years of documentation across wet and dry times, plus his methods are being used by farmers in drier climates.
Collating results from his pasture cropping trials, Colin states on his website that he has made ‘Marked improvements in the structure of and carbon levels in the ‘Pasture Cropped’ soils with Carbon bio-sequestration rates of up to 9 tC/ha/annually, plus significant improvements in the water holding capacity, nutrient dynamics and natural capital value of the landscape.’ Positive attributes for a soil that needs to maintain production across split enterprises.
In terms of financial achievements, Colin admits that averages for crop production have remained about the same, however input costs have reduced significantly, around $120,000 a year.
Colin’s interest in pasture cropping development has resulted in numerous accolades including being named recipient of the 2014 Bob Hawke award for Landcare.