Networking for small farms

Small farms are at the forefront of agricultural innovation, and are some of the most important and involved managers of our natural resources (soil, water and biodiversity). They are well placed to supply Australia’s growing demand for ecologically-friendly food, and grow rare and heritage animal breeds and plant cultivars that support the genetic resilience of Australian agriculture, and by extension, regional economies.

Over 537,500ha in South Coast New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory is managed in small lots of 1-40ha, by land managers who have a thirst for agricultural and environmental best practice information.

Participants at a Sheep Husbandry For Small Farms field day in Hall, ACT.

The Small Farms network received a $47,700 Sustainable Agriculture Small Grant from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources to hold 16 workshops across the Bungendore and Berry regions.  These workshops – attracting 492 local farmers – focussed on issues identified by the local land holders, including pasture management and monitoring, bee keeping, weed management, animal management and biosecurity, strategic land planning, fencing, dung beetles and healthy soils.

The Small Farms Network also conducted soil tests, and developed an online interactive information hub for farmers to access up-to-date sustainable management information, techniques and ideas, as well as opportunities to network, get in contact with farmers, and strengthen this small farming community.

This grant enabled landholders to make better informed decisions about managing fertiliser and herbicide use, reducing waste of labour and money, while minimising pollution to waterways from runoff.

The community-based learnings provided through Small Grants has also assisted in community building,
and increased farmer-to-farmer skill sharing.

“Having not long been in the area we had no contacts and no one to ask for advice,” a participant of the workshops said.

“I believe we are better carers of the land and it has increased my enthusiasm to improve the environment.

“Caring for the land seems too hard when you have little or no knowledge, having a place to go to learn makes it so much easier.”

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