LOCAL organic property Fig Trees Organic Farms won the prestigious Innovation in Sustainable Farm Practices Award at the 2013 NSW Landcare Awards this week.
Glenn Morris and Henry Sheehan were recognised for transforming the degraded farm and resource base into a working model of successful ecoagriculture. Fig Trees Organic Farms has also played an important role in enhancing the health of regional ecosystem processes.
Fig Trees Organic Farms has been very active in increasing awareness of regenerative farming methods through field days, newspaper stories, videos, school visits, radio interviews and their own website.
“I have such a strong belief that the foundation of our land is our soil and I am so grateful that we have the opportunity through this award to highlight that caring for our land is our future,” Mr Morris said.
Most beef producers find their way to the best beef by looking first at the cow.
For Glenn, finding the foundation for healthy land and environmental sustainability was the first priority.
After nine years getting ‘Wilton Park’ established at Grafton, the farm management looked for a property with higher mineral soils and found one in Inverell.
Glenn moved with his wife Katrina and three sons to develop the local property ‘Billabong’.
“The big thing for me was, as a new manager on a property, and it was a run-down property, I had to implement new grazing, new livestock breeding programs and new pasture improvement programs, and I really questioned the way I was going to do that and I how I was going to improve productivity but sustainability, and it was a really driving question for me. I didn’t want to just pump lots of chemicals onto the land and get a flush of feed but not really deal with the problem, which was getting that natural fertility.
“The two questions that I had at the back of my mind the whole time was, how can I be more productive and more sustainable on the farm; get the farm productivity up, but how can I do something that was going to contribute to a healthier environment, and region and planet? That’s when I started to study humus.
“So that was a real breakthrough for me because it turned out that the one focus could deal with all of those questions I had in my mind if I built up the humus, I could build up water-storage capacity, water-use efficiency, fertility.”
To supplement his knowledge, Glenn attained a Master’s in Sustainable Agriculture to better recreate the historic balance between the morphology of the land, water systems, climate and plant development. In his eyes, the gift of the results are the cattle.
The farms breed F1 Brahman-Hereford cattle at the Grafton property with live bulls and finish the cattle in Inverell.
The breeding program has been developed over a course of many years. “The F1 Brahman-Hereford female is exceptionally good at performing in lightest coastal country,” Glenn said.
“They have resistant against ticks, they’re fertility is 25 per cent higher than the British in a coastal environment, they’re a great mother, they milk well, they recover well. They survive on that lower quality feed a lot better.
He believes that the foremost priority is to address each link in the food chain from healthy biology to naturally fertile soils and eventually to the human.
“It’s not just about producing food; it’s about producing fully nutritious food and understanding that that is going to give us the prevention against disease. You can’t have healthy biology if you keep knocking it around with chemicals.” Glenn explained that producers have acquiesced to industry compromises and increased production, but at the expense of nutrition.
“I think the really important point though is getting honest about our health, and getting honest about the health of the land and getting honest about the health of the stable climate.
“You know, these are vitally important for our future so we need to get honest. And stop compromising. Industries need to stop compromising.”
The biennial awards ceremony, held on Wednesday night in Newcastle, in conjunction with the NSW Landcare and Catchment Management Forum, celebrated individual and community volunteer projects that have made significant contributions to the environment in local communities around NSW.
Rob Dulhunty, Chair of Landcare NSW, congratulated the winners for their outstanding efforts which have created positive outcomes for environmental sustainability.
“All of the nominees and winners should be incredibly proud of the impact they have made in protecting the natural resources in the local communities,” Mr Dulhunty said.
“Volunteers play a vital role in restoring and maintaining our environment at a local level and the Landcare Awards is a terrific opportunity to acknowledge their efforts and celebrate their achievements.”
Tessa Jakszewicz, CEO of Landcare Australia, also praised the winners for their exceptional work.
“The high calibre of this year’s winners demonstrates the dedication and vibrancy of the Landcare community in New South Wales, and the essential role it plays in the management of the state’s natural resources,” Ms Jakszewicz said.
“The variety of projects across all nine categories is a fantastic representation of the diversity of the Landcare movement and I look forward to meeting with winners again at next year’s National Landcare Awards.”
All the winners of the National categories will go through as nominees for their respective categories at the 2014 National Landcare Awards.