17 February 2014
Holbrook Landcare Visit to the Upper Shoalhaven
Last week, 25 landcarers from the Holbrook district in southern NSW travelled to the Upper Shoalhaven on a two day trip to check out some of the innovative work farmers of this district are undertaking. Primarily they were interested in seeing the results of the natural sequence farming work that is being done on Martin Royds' Jillamatong property and at Tony Coote's Mulloon Creek Natural Farm.
Natural Sequence Farming (NSF) is an idea, pioneered by Peter Andrews, which seeks to harness the power of nature by first understanding how landscape fertility naturally builds over time. Peter Andrews argues that it is the strength of the relationship between biodiversity and the water cycle that is the key to building fertility and resilience within the extremes of the Australian climate.
Debates over the veracity of this approach have raged for years. Does it steal water from downstream? Does it promote weeds? Could it increase salinity risk? Such questions aren't easily answered. At face value, however, water was discharging from each property and the vegetation looked vibrant and healthy. It was an opportune time to see how the approach was holding up given the hot and dry conditions in recent months.
The Holbrook Landcare network is on a mission to decide whether it wants to set up similar demonstrations in its district. Tour organiser and Holbrook farmer, Gillian Taylor, said, "Holbrook Landcare is one of the most progressive and active networks in Australia. We've planted countless trees over the years. Some of us now want to take the next step in the hope that we can further enhance the natural functionality of our properties." "We heard about the work going on in the Upper Shoalhaven and several of us were very keen to take a look."
Speaking afterwards Ms Taylor said, "This has been a very successful trip, which has promoted lots of discussion. We are now more confident than ever that these ideas can be applied in our area."
An additional benefit of the trip has been in the potential for it to build a strong community of interest between the Upper Shoalhaven and Holbrook. Upon reflection, Mr Royds said, "In farming we all deal with environmental and economic uncertainty. The sharing of knowledge and experience is one way that we can all build individual and community resilience against these vagaries."
Photo: Members of Holbrook Landcare taking time out for a group photo with Tony Coote (bottom centre) at Mulloon Creek Natural Farms.