Regenerative Farming on the Fleurieu (Nov 2019)
On a sunny Sunday afternoon in Mt Compass, eight local farmers made the case that Regenerative Farming offers a viable solution to climate change and a host of other social, ecological and economic challenges. The packed audience had plenty of their own ideas too for... making the Fleurieu a regenerative farming epicentre and sharing what we're learning with the world!
Top 5 Ideas!
1. Baseline the Fleurieu's soil carbon levels
Regenerative farming is all about healthy soils. Soil carbon levels is a great indicator of soil health (although there are loads of other important indicators too). Regenerative Farmers are generating massive increases in their soil carbon levels. This provides an amazing opportunity to claim soil carbon credits or promote our regional brand a a marketing advantage. what we've achieved. Accurate, consistent and reliable base-lining is key. Let's do it in a consistent, reliable and replicable way across the entire Fleurieu.
2. Fleurieu as the Soil Carbon Capital
Imagine if the entire Fleurieu committed to building our soil carbon? What an incredible branding opportunity.
What is Regenerative Farming?
Defining regenerative farming is no easy task. That's partly because it's a broad umbrella term that captures a range of practices. There's not a one-size-fits-all set of rules and farmers are encouraged to apply the approach that work best for their context. However, we've had a go at a very brief (and certainly incomplete) definition....
Regenerative Farming is both a philosophy and practice. In contrast to the reductionist approach of industrial agriculture, a foundational principle of regenerative agriculture is that everything is intrinsically linked, and the culture part is just as essential as the agri part.
Healthy soils are the hero (and carbon is the king!). Rather than being an inert substrate, soil is a living system that grows and evolves over time. This means it can also die. Getting carbon, water and beneficial critters into them is key.
Groundcover is gorgeous. Healthy living soils like to keep their skin on. This means retaining constant groundcover with diverse plant species that draw carbon into the soil via photosynthesis. This turns the soil into a giant sponge.
Water is wonderful. Spongy soils retain water in the landscape, resulting in healthy plants and animals. Greater evapotranspiration means stable micro-climates and lower temperatures, something of increasing importance as our climate warms.
Animals are awesome. Judiciously grazed livestock (along with local birds and animals) help break down green matter, fertilise soils and promote healthy plant growth, thereby negating the need for sprays and slashers.
Critters are critical. Replacing poisons and synthetic fertilisers with microbiology brews, allows beneficial bugs above and below ground to thrive, providing essential ecosystem services. For example, microbes and fungi help carbon cycling processes and support plants to access a far greater diversity of nutrients.
Viola! The combined result of all these things is rich, biodiverse, water-holding soils producing nutrient-dense food, healthy animals and productive farms. Farmers are happier, communities and ecosystems are healthier and farming economies are productive and stable for the long term.
We brought together eight truly inspiring local farmers who have changed their practices and are reaping tangible benefits that go far beyond the farm gate.
If you want to dig a little deeper, NSW farmer Charles Massy’s book, Call of the Reed Warbler: A New Agriculture - A New Earth, is the Australian bible of regenerative farming. As he told Dumbo Feather, ‘We’re a species made for stories. We don’t want a serious textbook. Let’s have wonderful stories of these extraordinary farmers regenerating different components of how the landscape functioned.’ A second book could be written about people regenerating Fleurieu farms!