I always felt there was a better way, a
more natural way of doing things, to be honest it’s just something that’s
happened, progressed naturally it just felt right for me. It’s one of
those things I just sort of feel we’re doing the right thing and you know at
the end of the day I want to be able to look my children in the eye and say you
know we gave it the best shot. If we want to keep farming if we want to keep producing food if we want you know that old one you know feed the world the only way
we’re going to do that is through regenerative agriculture. Regenerative
agriculture you know is all about basically increasing biodiversity. What’s
the best of science what’s our best understanding of microbiological systems
and soil chemistry and bringing that all together. It’s about sequestering
carbon into soil it’s about looking after your water and creating clean
water off your property. It’s very science based but at the same time it’s being
driven by farmers. Whether those conversations are driven by farm system
change or water quality or climate change there’s a whole lot of people on the
same wavelength. Agriculture as it stands today is the biggest polluter in the
world. Greenhouse gases and groundwater pollution all of it Farmers I think collectively need to see that they are a big part of
the solution out there and not just stick their heads in the sand and think it’s
going to go away because the problem is getting worse.
Our current farming models are really leaky you know they leak a lot of
nitrogen a lot of phosphate is lost in these environments. Agriculture
undoubtedly is one of the biggest problems on the
planet along with energy, economics, populations but agriculture is a big one
that we can really turn around just by using these wiser regenerative farming
techniques. My father and his father, they put
superphosphate on and man it made the grass grow. It’s incredible but they kept
putting it on as they’re advised to do, I mean we all berate farmers but everything
they’re doing now they’ve been advised to do. Nitrogen use has gone up and up
and up and up and then you look from the 1980s to now it’s gone from 80 million
tonnes to 120 million tonnes even though we’ve known what nitrogen is doing into
the environment. It’s like a drug addiction, that’s exactly what it is really, you can put it on six weeks later you can see a result, fantastic! But it’s very
detrimental to the soil therefore detrimental for the plant and therefore
it’s detrimental to the animals and therefore detrimental to the human but I
think farmers need to take more responsibility for that you know. Farmers see themselves as stewards and they do want to do a good job they just don’t
have the tools or the support in order to be able to reduce that nitrogen, we’re
going to look back on this and go what were we thinking? How do we get that
system to work as a cycle so we’re not having these losses to the environment. We’ve weaned ourselves off urea so we’re not adding any of that extra
nitrogen to the pastures. My fertilizer budget four years ago was a
hundred thousand dollars now it’s about 35 thousand a year, in ten years time it’ll be zero because nature can do it all. You just sort of take one step towards looking after nature and she’ll
come rushing back with ten. Nature is all about diversity and diversity brings
resilience to a farm system. With a number of little enterprises
going on here that complement each other The pigs get to eat grass as well
that’s then supplemented with milk which is coming courtesy of a cow but it’s a
perennial system that doesn’t need all that fossil fuel energy to cultivate
the grain. They love the milk, they just go nuts over it you know. There’s a lot
of similarities between regenerative agriculture and organic but I think
regenerative agriculture is trying to take that next step. So we just do things
differently it’s quite fun. The hen house is behind those trees at the moment but there’s hens following behind that mob of cattle out there and you know the
manure that has been left behind from the cattle the birds you know they’re
scratching through it spreading it pecking out insects and bugs, sanitising the pasture and also giving us production by producing eggs you know
everything has multiple purposes and you know all the different enterprises
complement each other. This is the eco lodge and the exterior is all made from
macrocarpa which was grown on the farm You’ve got Horseshoe Lake which is a
natural reserve. The goal of the farm is really just optimizing life and that’s
not just the life of the land and the life of the soil that’s the life of the
people we get to meet them and that really makes a pretty dynamic place. It doesn’t matter from how extreme points
of political view people might have ultimately we want to leave a better
future for our children. They pick up a lot more than
we realize about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, we have a lot of conversations around the table that are quite huge really for an adult let alone a child. Are you proud of your mum and dad for what they’re doing? Yeah. I am really proud. Yeah. I’ve got 22 different
species in mine and I want to just go a whole lot further than that, I want them
to have all of these different foods variety of foods, they’ve all got
different mineral content in them and the cow will go and choose what she
wants. People are really worried about nitrates in the waterways. You get
diversity of species in there you’ve actually got root systems that capture that nitrate instead of what
we currently have now is the minute that nitrate gets below you know two inches
it’s gone and then farmers are just wasting their money. A lot of farmers look at the amount of grass that we’ve got and they just see
waste. I’m trying to explain that waste is a
human concept that nature doesn’t actually do waste it’s part of the
cycle and what doesn’t get eaten by an animal is feeding the soil biology. We
let our grass get a lot taller than what most farmers would do and
certainly as we go through the spring and into the summer we’re taking some really long
grass, so when we’re grazing the cattle through they’re not eating every blade of grass. The key philosophy being mimicking the herds of Buffalo from the
African American Plains in terms of how they moved onto tall
pasture. They’ll take out a good proportion half/60% of the grass
that’s here and what they don’t take out ideally they’ll trample and trample flat
and should pulse over it basically forms a bit of a mulch and so with worms and other insect activity you’re starting to churn into that as it decomposes and bury it back down so
there’s your carbon cycling it’s nutrients cycles. Beautiful soil. Everything comes back to
soil you know we’re talking about water quality we’re talking about food quality
if we’re talking about greenhouse gas sequestration or emissions you know it
all comes back to soil. Our current farming models are very inefficient you
know we’re seeing a lot of losses we see a lot of loss of soil we’re seeing a lot
of loss of nitrogen and phosphate so it all comes back to how do we manage soil
so looking at how to regenerate that soil so it will hold on to those pieces. I’ve reduced my cow numbers drastically
which really hurt because my production fell but it’s
starting to pay dividend now a lot. it’s not just about how much you produce,
how much money you make you know that’s got to be in balance with how much money
you’re spending to produce that and you know our system is working on being a
lower input system and so that so you know the profits will be right up here. People are scared
of changing because debt I think that’s a big driver of all these people. I’ve
got a neighbor here close he’s been with me on some field days and done
a lot of stuff but his debts more than mine and mines high and he just he can’t
take the jump that’s too scary for him. you know these people need some help. The farming leadership is not getting in
behind this, there’s farmers out there that are already doing what’s needed and
yet we’re not getting that groundswell in behind to kind of celebrate the
people that are already doing just absolutely awesome job, um, sorry. I guess for me I know how simple it is I’ve been involved in this industry for 20 years.
I’m a scientist first and foremost I know how the system works and I know howwell it can work and yet we’re just not getting buy-in and the water, the water
quality, well rivers are crashing and I love this country. I think creativity probably will be the key force that we need at the moment and a bit of open mindedness. They just think I’m wacky. Which is fine by me. And once I’m further down the track
and I’ve proven my model then I hope someone will come back and start talking
to me. You know when we get into February and March when it’s really dry and you
know there’s no grass around but I’m still green and feeding my cows
I’m hoping they’ll come through the gate to talk. And that’ll be really cool. The cool
thing about this place is it’s really open it’s a bit of a experimental
site and we will take risks that other people might not. I think the best thing
is to come and look judge for yourselves. Give it a go do some trials
small ones, only has to be you know paddocks out of your system, couple of
hectares whatever just try it and see what happens. it’s a really enjoyable way to farm and there’s a whole lot of
diversity going on and so you know it never gets monotonous and
that because there’s that challenge I guess of trying to think through solutions rather than just buying your solution out of a
bag and and so that’s you know if you enjoy a challenge than this is a beauty.