The journey from conventional to organic farming began 20 years ago for Glenn Morris when changes in weather patterns triggered his awareness of how human activity was impacting on the natural world.
Today he and wife, Katrina Morris, operate two organically certified properties: a 400 hectare operation near Grafton used for breeding cattle; and a 1000 hectare property near Inverell where they raise the calves and keep “some pigs”.
“I was conventionally trained through ag college and was working on a conventional farm,” Mr Morris said.
“What drew me to organics was starting to notice extreme [weather] conditions … like long dry periods.”
While popular attention is often drawn to global climate changes, Mr Morris noticed how these issues also played out at local and regional levels.
“We basically realised that what we were doing on the land was actually affecting the atmosphere,” he said. “I realised we’re totally connected.”
Mr Morris said a critical factor in restoring climate balance was for farmers to look after the soil in a way that enabled it to store more moisture and improve local rainfall.
“It’s really basic water-cycle science. As modern farmers we can use our soils, pastures and trees to actually absorb carbon out of the atmosphere and convert it into a really beneficial substance for re-generating the farm,” he said, explaining the goal is to “basically” convert atmospheric carbon dioxide into soil humus.
To achieve this, the Morrises gradually moved away from using artifical methods to stimulate production like synthetic fertilsers, and towards more reliance on selective grazing and natural diversity to balance problems with weeds and pests.
“You eventually end up with a nice healthy pasture,” Mr Morris said, noting that the resulting healthy landscape also generates “healthy farming”.
From a win-win situation for the land and the farm, the Morrises could now also sell their produce on the growing commercial market for organically certified food.
“Back then it was not seen as a mainstream market, [but] now it’s very mainstream,” Mr Morris said, explaining that Australia is among the world’s top producers of organic beef.
Today, he estimates their beef fetches a premium roughly around 20 to 30 per cent above the conventional market.
The consumer was also critical to enabling farmers to “make a difference”.
“If we don’t have consumers connected to the message – buying our product – then we can’t do it,” he said.