Riparian Fencing Provides Co-benefits to Diversified Agricultural Enterprise

By levering off natural assets to diversify their agricultural enterprise, third-generation farmers Phil and Anne Donges have been able to move toward an early semi-retirement with a steady income stream.

Located between Yelarbon, Inglewood and Texas, Queensland, their property ‘Glenarbon’ has been in the family for almost 90 years. Key crops and land use on the property have pivoted numerous times as a result of market demands, economic climates and practice change. Previously the property has been used for grazing, grain, hay and irrigated crops, and today Phil and Anne focus on grazing and eco-tourism enterprise.

“Glenarbon was established back in 1932. Our family came out then to grow tobacco. That was in the middle of the depression,” Phil said. “We’re now using the property to run a few head of steers and then we’ve also gone into eco-tourism where people can come and enjoy the environment like we like it ourselves.” 

To move into semi-retirement and decrease their workload, Phil and Anne sold off the majority of the original Glenarbon property in 2018, retaining 100-acres of the original family farm along a 1-kilometre stretch of the Dumaresq River. While still maintaining between 30 to 35 steers, they have diversified by establishing ten campsites on the property and providing visitors with fishing, swimming and canoeing opportunities as well as walking and bicycle tracks.

Diversification has proved a wise decision, as in recent years Queensland has experienced both its worst drought recorded history and a period of abundant rainfall. These changing weather conditions and the impact they have had on agricultural production has led to significant fluctuations in the local market, however by relying less on livestock and more on the farm’s natural assets through eco-tourism, Phil and Anne have guaranteed themselves extra income as well as a financial safety net.

To benefit both aspects of their business, Phil and Anne have been focussed on improving waterways on their property. By partnering with Southern Queensland Landscapes in 2022, and through funding from the Northern Basin Fencing Program, they have protected a pristine stretch of the Dumaresq River on their property by fencing it off to livestock. The benefits have included:

  • Protection of stock from illness and injury;
  • Improved waterway resilience and reduced riverbank erosion;
  • Decreased risk of flood damage;
  • Enhanced water quality;
  • Increased biodiversity with sightings of echidnas, platypus and a breeding pair of sea eagles that return to the property each year.

Phil and Anne have always focussed on maximising natural habitat and biodiversity, but were thrilled with the benefits the new riparian fencing provides and the role it plays in contributing to a sustainable and healthy local river system.

With the visible results of Phil and Anne’s land management work boosting the number visitors to their property and creating benefits for the wider community and local businesses. The couple are now focussed on increasing their impact by using their property to educate guests about the importance of sustainable land management practices.

“Working with nature means you can always see the improvement in the soil and the pasture that grows. On the eco-tourism side of things, you’ve got the people you meet. It’s really great to give them an education and for us to see them happy makes us happy,” Anne said.

For more information on Southern Queensland Landscapes and how they can help you with funding and sustainable agricultural innovation, please visit:  

This case study was produced as part of the Landcare Farming Innovations in Agriculture Series. Supported by the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program, the Landcare Farming Innovations in Agriculture Series is managed in partnership by Landcare Australia and the National Landcare Network.

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