Last weekend we were in Bathurst to speak at the Farming for the Future conference organised by Greening Bathurst. What an exciting and inspiring event. The venue was full not only with older farmers but a surprising number of young farming families keen to grow sustainable food. the Conference certainly delivered. The program brought together the leading practitioners in regenerative farming:
Col Seis who helped facilitate the pasture cropping movement world-wide and in 2015 was named one of the top 6 most influential farmers in the world.
Charles Massey, grazier and author of the Call of the Reed Warbler
Graham Finlayson a farmer of the year and Nutfield Scholar who is demonstrating how grazing in the semi-arid zone on 7000 ha, could be turned around using stock to to regenerate whole landscapes.
Martin Royds who has turned traditional agriculture in his neighbourhood on its head, and increased his productivity to 230% per DSE. He has won a number of awards including:
And Peter Andrews OAM who has gained fundamental insights to the natural functioning of the Australian landscape that leave him almost without peer.
What all these speakers have in common and made clear, is that agricultural practices, operating in isolation from the environment and only focused on the productive unit rather than the the geography, the climate, the soil and the environment, as all aspects of the farm, do not work.
So what is regenerative farming?
It applies ecological principles to food / farm production, while taking care of natural resources and valuing biodiversity.
Agroecolgy is the term being used by international policy makers. It is not a farming practice as such but provides the principles or the ethos for food production. It links ecology, culture, economics, and society to sustain agricultural production, healthy environments, and viable food and farming communities.
It is about:
Since 2014 the United Nations Food & Agricultural Organisation has embraced the term Agroecology. Natural Sequence Farming, Holistic Farming, Biological Farming, Permaculture and so on, are all Agroecology in action as they all essentially follow the same ethos or principles.
It was a great honour for Wynlen House to share the stage with these leading innovators in the farming sector. We were also the only women farmers on the program. (One for the team) We were included because we are a highly productive, very small farm, practicing ecological farming and intensive poly-culture, in recognition that small farms are as equally as important as large farms.
By 2012, in the international arena, the United Nations Food & Agricultural Organisation had radically changed its thinking acknowledging that diversified farming systems in which the small-scale farmer produces grains, fruits, vegetables, fodder, and animal products in the same field or garden out-produce the yield per unit of single crops such as corn grown alone on large-scale farms.
A large farm may produce more corn per hectare than a small farm in which the corn is grown as part of a poly-culture. But, productivity in terms of harvestable products per unit area of poly-cultures developed by smallholders is higher than under a single crop with the same level of management. Yield advantages can range from 20% to 60%, because poly-cultures reduce losses due to weeds (by occupying space that weeds might otherwise occupy), insects, and diseases (because of the presence of multiple species), and make more efficient use of the available resources of water, light, and nutrients.
The inverse relationship between farm size and output can be attributed to the more efficient use of land, water, biodiversity, and other agricultural resources by small farmers. So in terms of converting inputs into outputs, society would be better off with small-scale farmers.
This brings us back to Wynlen House.
From little things big things Grow
Bronwyn Richards has cared for animals and has been growing vegetables successfully all her adult life. She is principle gardener for Wynlen House Farm