NSF is working in WA

Any questions or comments you have about Natural Sequence Farming processes. These could include general questions or ones about your personal problems.

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Ian James
Posts: 253
Joined: Sun Jul 01, 2007 12:31 am
Location: Avon West Australia

Formation of the Ninghan Sub Committee of Avon NSA

Postby Ian James » Thu Aug 20, 2009 4:18 am

I heard in June that Peter was planning a trip to WA. Duane emailed me to let me know that Peter wanted to visit our farm here to check on how our projects were coming along.

Since Peter's last visit in April we had been flat out with all the goings on involved in preparing and planting our winter crop and had not progressed at all with any works on the NSF trials I had planned or have underway on the farm.

I wondered if Peter would be disappointed with my efforts as I had shown him a site which I have earmarked for restoration which I hope to begin this summer, I knew Peter was interested in seeing if I had followed his advice correctly and also whether or not the work was achieving the desired results.

Regardless, I looked forward to seeing Peter and enjoying his company as well as having another opportunity to examine every landscape we came across and discuss in greater detail his views and theories on every aspect of landcare and climate I could possibly think of.

A week or so prior to Peter’s expected arrival and with mounting guilt, recriminations and worry over my lack of activity on the ground, I received a call from Brendan Barber. Brendan has read my posts on this blog and has also read, re-read and studied in great detail both of Peter’s books and also any other literature he can find on NSF.

He decided to ring me after his Brother in Law and good friend Mark Sutton, following many hours of listening to Brendan’s enthusiastic explanations of the benefits and possibilities of NSF, made available to him a large 600 Ha degraded paddock on which he could put into practise the NSF methods he was preaching.

Immediately, on receiving the call and listening to Brendan’s eager descriptions and questions I realised the potential for the introduction of Peter’s landcare methods into the heartland of the vast areas of the WA Northern Central Wheatbelt.

This is where I grew up and is a land of broad scale, severe degradation over a massive area. If there is to be any hope at all for the widespread acceptance and general implementation of a grassroots farmer initiated and co-ordinated program of restoration and re-initialisation of the natural processes and sequences that successfully managed the hydrology and suppressed salinity for thousands upon thousands of years though all manner of droughts and floods since the times of the megafauna then this is the area where it will have to take hold and grow.

I told Brendan to collect a number of his mates, the sceptics, the believers, the concerned and the merely interested and invite them to Marks farm the following Sunday when I would travel to Marks farm to meet them, inspired by Peter, to look over the block and to discuss NSF methods and to draw up a sketch of a plan and outline a range of options we could look at to tackle the degradations visible on the site.

We had a great day and I enjoyed pretending to be Peter, no matter how dismal my success, I asked the group to first form a sub-committee and then elect Brendan as their chair and to choose a secretary from among them, this accomplished we agreed to meet again soon and I suggested that Brendan advertise a general public invitation to a field day where Peter Andrews, the Natural Sequence Farmer, would be the speaker.

If I was unsure of the acceptance of the theories and methods I was attempting to explain to the blokes my doubts were quickly expelled as the whole group gave me their commitment and accepted the task I had described with sure and solemn demeanour, their jaws set firm with grim determination as the realisation of the scale of the task which lay before them dawned.

The pioneering spirit burns fierce in the face of adversity, the axe set down, replaced by new found knowledge, the tool of days to come.
Now I knew that Peter would not be disappointed.

Ian James
Posts: 253
Joined: Sun Jul 01, 2007 12:31 am
Location: Avon West Australia

My topography map

Postby Ian James » Thu Aug 27, 2009 5:05 pm

I finaly got a map of my farm showing the topography contour lines.

I will use this map to help plan my first major NSF works on a whole farm project.

Here is the map.

Image

Ian James
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Joined: Sun Jul 01, 2007 12:31 am
Location: Avon West Australia

The plan so far.

Postby Ian James » Thu Aug 27, 2009 5:18 pm

We just finished planting 83 000 trees of a diverse mix in areas along the creek which can be seen in the photo of the farm just to the south of the vally floor.

Today I rant the Agricultural Protection Board in Northam who gave me the number of the local area manager Terri Jasper who is now helping me organise a baiting program to get the rabbit colonies along the creek sorted so the trees don't get eaten.

gbell
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Re: The plan so far.

Postby gbell » Thu Aug 27, 2009 9:24 pm

Ian James wrote:We just finished planting 83 000 trees


WOW. what tools did you use to do that?

organise a baiting program to get the rabbit colonies along the creek sorted so the trees don't get eaten.


what about wallabies?

Ian James
Posts: 253
Joined: Sun Jul 01, 2007 12:31 am
Location: Avon West Australia

Tools for planting trees

Postby Ian James » Thu Aug 27, 2009 11:49 pm

These trees were supplied by an organisation which was founded30 years ago by a couple of men who like Peter were passionate about doing something to abate the ongoing degradation of agricultural landscapes.

They understood that trees or the lack there of were the key to the causes of degradation of the landscape.

Recently corporate entities which are heavy carbon polluters have come on board as funders of plantings under an arrangement where the carbon sequestered by the growing trees is calculated and offset against the carbon released into the atmosphere by these companies through the burning of fossil fuels.

In my case I signed an agreement to lease the area planted to trees to this organisation for 99 years. In return seedlings would be supplied and planted, I agreed not to destroy the trees and I am allowed to graze the plantation by stock after an initial establishment period of between 9 and 18 months depending on the variety and species.

In addition I am to be paid an amount for the carbon sequestered on an escalating scale in years 3 through to 10.

I do not pay for the trees or the cost of planting.

The trees cost about $1.00 each for the seedling and the planting.

In this instance the cost would have been roughly $83 000.00

Well beyond my margin levels.

About 95% of the trees are planted by contractors using a tractor drawn tree planter which has two operators being the driver and the planter.

The other 5% planted into rough terrain are hand planted using a planting tool.

I am very happy with the outcome, it is something I have hoped to do for years but due to time and budget constraints have been unable to achieve.

I expect this planting will be viewed as just the tip of the iceberg in years to come as my whole farm is planted in swathes of trees following the contour of the land exactly as Peter is encouraging me to do.

As for the carbon credits and their possible future value, "what ever" that is not my incentive. My real return will be through the sustainable health of my farmland through the next 100 years of my period of influence on this locality.

I hope to pass the baton with my land in better shape than what it was when I took it on.

That in itself will be a fine achievement.

Ian James
Posts: 253
Joined: Sun Jul 01, 2007 12:31 am
Location: Avon West Australia

Postby Ian James » Thu Aug 27, 2009 11:53 pm

Wallabies and kangaroos are extinct in the area.

We did have a animal reserve in which 27 kangaroos lived happily until one weekend when we were absent when an unknown group of hunters intruded onto our property and enjoyed a night or two of hunting until all the animals were exterminated.

A very disappointing outcome.

Ian James
Posts: 253
Joined: Sun Jul 01, 2007 12:31 am
Location: Avon West Australia

Peter talks to Mollerin Farmers.

Postby Ian James » Sat Sep 05, 2009 2:43 pm

On Sunday the 9th of August Jodi and I drove with Peter to the Mollerin Demonstration site.

A few weeks earlier we had formed a subcommittee of the Avon NSA. It was formed by local young farmers who had shown an interest in the formation of a demo site on the Dyard farm.

The group elected a chair person and a secretary and began to advertise that Peter would soon be visiting the site and all members of the public would be welcome to come along for the day and have the chance to listen and even speak to Peter.

When we arrived at the Dyard homestead there were already 60 or 70 people assembled and after preliminary introductions I spoke to the group to thank them for coming and described what we hoped to achieve at the demo site and then asked Peter to speak.

He was warmly welcomed and everyone listened intently, most had already read at least one of his books and many had seen some of the programs on the ABC.

When Peter invited questions there were many eager to test him or obtain clarification on specific points.

After speaking for nearly two hours I had to rescue Peter from the enquiring crowd by suggesting we all drive out to the demo site to discuss Peter’s ideas in an actual situation.

Out at the demo site I began by explaining as much as I could about the site and what the subcommittee thought they should do and then asked Peter to comment on our plans and invited questions once again.

Peter spoke again at great length with many questions coming. He got down on his hands and knees and began making banks along the contour with his hands between lumps of grass and showed us all how the bank would manage the hydrology and how it should be designed to allow excess water to leach and how to construct back up measures to utilise the leaching water with plant growth.

At this time many people could be heard expressing their understanding and approval of the methods and a few farmers commented that they had seen similar effects on some of the structures they had worked with on their farms which backed up what Peter was saying.

I spoke to the group and encouraged them to join our association and explained how I hoped that by uniting our efforts and focusing our strategies by following the methods being shown to us by Peter that farmers in a particular area could successfully coordinate their efforts on a multi-farm property scale with common strategic goals which tackled large scale degradation issues rather than just localised paddock small scale effects.
The response was very encouraging with many of those present joining our group and other expressing an interest in being involved as we move forwards.

On our arrival back at the homestead we all enjoyed drinks and a sausage sizzle and before long Peter was asked to construct a model of his creek water management in the back garden which he did very well and a group of about 30 farmers sat and watched and listened and asked questions for another 2 hours or so.

Finally it was time to say good bye. Peter had been busy explaining and joking with the farmers for nearly 5 hours and I could see that he was happy to keep doing so and many farmers were also keen to keep talking.

I estimated that of the farmers present they would have represented possibly 200 000 acres of farm land management.

A healthy swag. A very positive reception. A very eager group.

novaris
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Postby novaris » Tue Sep 08, 2009 6:57 pm

Congratulations Ian, what a productive day. It's magic that Peter is available for such sessions.
Everything in moderation, including moderation.

Julian
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Joined: Mon Dec 22, 2008 12:57 pm

Postby Julian » Wed Sep 09, 2009 2:56 pm

This is great that Peter can get out and demonstrate how the process works. But there is only one Peter. How can we spread the information quicker? I want to learn how to put in a contour chanel, but am only on 20 acres in Victoria. Peter probably wont come to me. Can Peter make some videos for us and post them on the site so the rest of us can get on with it.
I know he has videos on youtube, but its the contours I want to learn about. He specifies it is important not to get it wrong, so I am waiting to learn how to do them. I am watching the winter rain trickle off my property, and it would be nice to keep some for that long hot summer.

Ian James
Posts: 253
Joined: Sun Jul 01, 2007 12:31 am
Location: Avon West Australia

Postby Ian James » Thu Nov 19, 2009 4:16 pm

You can get the information you need by contacting your local department of Agriculture and talking to them. Make sure you stress that you do not want to create a drain which is sometimes called a grade bank because it travels on a gradient up or down slope.

You want to construct a contour bank which will hold water on the slope.

They should be able to get you started. Once you are ready to go come back on here and tell us what you are planing to do and how you are going to do it and I am sure you will receive many helping coments.

There is a particular design technique which Peter teaches that allows water to pond at certain points along the bank and another that allows some overflow at points along the bank where it travels around a Keyline. This is something that requires further researchn so that you understand it correctly.

When you need this info I suggest you post the question as a new topic on this site and be ready for a flood of information.

Good luck.

Ian James
Posts: 253
Joined: Sun Jul 01, 2007 12:31 am
Location: Avon West Australia

The wrong direction.

Postby Ian James » Tue Feb 23, 2010 4:14 am

I travelled through the West Oz Wheatbelt recently heading northeast towards the outback marginal cropping area north of Mukinbudin.

Mostly healthy looking farmland interspersed with the usual sterile salty wetlands and paddocks with recently harvested stubbles, I noticed that the majority of land managers seem to have taken up precision farming techniques which are visible by the up and back direction of the crop rows and also the precise parallel straight furrows.

It made me think how quick farmers are to adapt to and adopt new techniques and practices when they "want to".

It is rare indeed now to see a paddock sown without precision. This has been a sudden and near total adoption of a new method within a decade.

Part of the ongoing adaption to the new method that is now apparent is the shocking and apparently clinical clearing of the few remaining solitary surviving trees that stand in the way of the automated steering systems utilised in the seeding machinery.

The reason for these majestic survivors demise is obvious, they are in the way. Also in the way are the bush lines which characteristically border most paddocks, sometimes a line of single trees but commonly a band of scrub 10 meters wide. Now with the efficiencies being realised by automated tractor guidance these bands of bush are seen to be an annoying inconvenience. The operator of the tractor is rudely awoken from whatever dream he has fallen into and is required to switch off the guidance system and seed distributor, raise his machine from the earth and turn back in the opposite direction.

An expensive inconvenience. Better to clear those pesky trees and bush and join three or four paddocks together.

Sadly it is an obvious economic reality. The farmer is not a greedy cigar smoking magnate in a pinstriped suit but a hardworking sun bitten survivor. Inefficiencies must be eliminated if the enterprise is to remain competitive and viable.

What is sadly less obvious is the continuing decline in the health of the environment which surrounds and includes these new mega paddocks and the irony that farmers are so quick to take up a new farming method which is in direct contrast to the practices which to many observers is critical to their long term environmental and economic survival.

What can I do?

Farmers are not listening.

duane
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Postby duane » Tue Feb 23, 2010 10:41 am

Good to hear from you again Ian.

Ian wrote:

Wallabies and kangaroos are extinct in the area.

We did have a animal reserve in which 27 kangaroos lived happily until one weekend when we were absent when an unknown group of hunters intruded onto our property and enjoyed a night or two of hunting until all the animals were exterminated


Unfortunately, WA farmers have reached a point of utter despair.

The writing for many is clearly on the wall.

Years of over exploitation has left a landscape bereft of biodiversity and now in order to eake out the last remaining drop of blood from their farms and their landscape there
"is now apparent is the shocking and apparently clinical clearing of the few remaining solitary surviving trees....and the reason for these majestic survivors demise is obvious, they are in the way. Also in the way are the bush lines which characteristically border most paddocks, sometimes a line of single trees but commonly a band of scrub 10 meters wide."


I have to say I agree with Ian that
Farmers are not listening.
They continue to take costly and bad advice from agronomists working for chemical providors and misguided advice from govt depts, that they are now mining the very LAST of their resources and assets.

For many of the farmers they may be only left with the one choice...to sell up OR to rethink how they conduct agriculture WITHIN an ecosystem that aggrades their asset rather than degrades their asset.

The plough and burn and spray and rip, plunder and pillage days are OVER.

Its a big call to make but its got to be better than the present alternative.....which is to buy a camel and a white Lawrence of Arabia outfit.

This is though SERIOUS stuff......

See my post under Is this site a beacon for NSF.

duane
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Postby duane » Tue Feb 23, 2010 12:56 pm

This article just appeared in The Age http://www.theage.com.au/news/entertain ... ntentSwap2
Ripe for harvesting

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February 23, 2010
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Brendan Gleeson argues that in the face of climate change, it is time to rethink the where and how of our food supplies. Take a good look at your backyard. A really good look. What do you use it for? And what could you use it for?

WE RARELY talk sensibly about food — the throwaway line "food for thought" is about as close as we come to connecting thinking with eating. This isn't an attitude we can afford any longer.

Our food production and distribution systems are facing some deep challenges. It's time we gave much more thought to food.

Things are going haywire. Ocean acidification and resource exploitation are ruining global fish stocks. Rapid urbanisation in the developing world is sucking the life from agricultural regions. Declining crop yields have large parts of the world on famine watch. And, idiotically, we're switching crops from food to biofuel production at a time of soaring populations.

And there's a much bigger threat to our entire food regime. "Global warming" is perhaps not the best way to describe the threat; renowned British environmentalist James Lovelock prefers "global heating" to describe the human-fired barbecue that is cooking planet Earth.

Global heating undermines human food supply at a number of levels.

First, it reduces that most vital precondition for food, water.

It also attacks food on other fronts: making land less arable; climates less predictable and thus less productive; and reducing biodiversity and future potential food sources.

A recent international study predicted that if heating continues unchecked, global wheat production will drop by up to 27per cent and rice by 13per cent over the next 40 years.

The climate slow-burn will steadily erode human resources for food production. It is stressing Australia's inland rural communities, where interminable drought manifests in soaring suicide rates.

Last September, CSIRO chief Dr Megan Clark told an astonished National Press Club that "in the next 50 years, we will need to produce as much food as we have ever produced in the entire human history". This at a time of declining agricultural possibilities, much of it attributable to climate change.

But the optimists, or at least one known for his noisy buoyancy, had another view. Senator Bill Heffernan urged us to look to Australia's north as a new frontier of agricultural ambition.

The CSIRO doubts northern Australia's suitability for food production but science, the senator was certain, could unlock the secrets of tropical productivity.

I believe ingenuity is much more significant than science — critical as formal expertise is, and will be — and that we have a resource base much closer to hand than the far north.

I refer to suburban Australia. This is where the overwhelming majority of Australians live and will do so for a long time, whatever our urban redevelopment ambitions. The "fibro frontier", the "veneer frontier": it has many manifestations, but shares powerful qualities that we should consider.

First, the vast suburbia of our metropolises and sea-change regions occupies some of the best-watered and most productively "soiled" land we have. And climate projections suggest they will continue to receive acceptable amounts of rainfall.

Second, with the exception of more recent "small lot" estates, suburbia is a low-density greenscape with plenty of disorganised but potentially productive land.

There are obvious barriers to producing food in suburbia — it's a fragmented, privately owned patchwork, for a start. There's also the problem of protected pests that thrive in our green suburbs.

But perhaps it's time to add human ingenuity to the mixture of resource use. A reservoir of quiet innovation exists in suburbia. We discount it at our peril.

The suburbs are often miscast as anti-environmental, which is ironic, as Australian environmentalism was conceived and hatched in them. There is plenty of evidence that the environmental sensibility remains, slumbering perhaps but ready like all sleepers to be awakened by the right cause.

Think of the stunningly effective response of suburbanites in south-east Queensland during the drought of 2000-07. With resolute state and municipal leadership, householders were able to reduce per-capita water use to the lowest levels in the developed world and crisis was averted.

We can ponder the legacy of this and other responses to urban water crises in Australia. Many residential properties have adapted permanently to the need for water conservation; many households have independent access to on-site tank water. This must amass to a substantial new catchment capacity in the cities. Presently it's used to keep lawns green and roses blooming but it could easily service a new suburban food endeavour.

We've been there before. Until relatively recently, our suburbs were highly productive food regions. In simpler times, the dictate of self-sufficiency was carefully maintained.

Queensland sociologist Patrick Mullins demonstrated that even up until the 1960s a substantial proportion of produce consumed in the cities came from suburban backyards: chooks, vegies, fruit that became preserves and jam. And the rest was mostly sourced from the immediate hinterlands of the cities.

Another argument in favour of suburban agriculture is the need to de-carbonise food. We need to radically reduce the distance food travels to reduce the energy used by the economy. A low-carb(on) diet must become the norm, not a fad.

The suburbs beckon a new, comprehensive makeover that will make them fit for food production.

Yet leadership is lacking. The states, which carry principal responsibility for urban management, have snookered themselves with inflexible visions of the compact city, freighted with much impotent anxiety about the "sprawling" suburbs overwhelming the food bowls that once marked the edges of the cities.

At the municipal level things are more promising but also patchy. Community gardens are unlikely to become a major source of food.

We need new metropolitan commissions to independently manage the cities and guide us through the climate and resource crises. There are other barriers to suburban agriculture.

Given the new, diverse social structure of contemporary suburbia, we cannot simply return to the former system. We all work more intensively these days. Who will tend the plots?

Perhaps part of the answer is to recognise the grey and largely fit army that might be willing to undertake a new type of gardening.

Equally, as culinary identity Stephanie Alexander has advocated, potentially tens of thousands of school gardens could provide a focus for education and involve children in nurturing and consuming healthy food.

There is a host of issues that have to be tackled: private property rights, public liability, health and safety concerns relating to non-organic produce, safe storage of water and the like. These details will bedevil us unless they are addressed through legislation, help for householders and, above all, municipal guidance.

In generations past, quiet necessity brought the "harvest of the suburbs". It ended with our brief flirtation with fantasy, when we believed ourselves utterly freed from nature and released to the freeways of boundless gratification. A fire in the heavens now glowers over us. This is the real barbecue-stopper of our times.

Brendan Gleeson is a professor of urban management and planning and director of the Urban Research Program at Griffith University.

This is an edited extract from Griffith Review 27: Food Chain (TextPublishing), rrp $24.95, www.griffithreview.com.


It is interesting to note that [b]50% of Sydney's fresh food is produced locally within the Sydney Basin. Someone's backyards are working overtime.
[/b]
I believe that our farmers may have to look to local markets more as a source for income thereby relying less on sending their remaining fertility overseas. Keep it here.

Act local...think local....maybe it's the way of the future.

Paul Ujj
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Location: Arcadia NSW

Re: The wrong direction.

Postby Paul Ujj » Wed Feb 24, 2010 1:39 pm

'Part of the ongoing adaption to the new method that is now apparent is the shocking and apparently clinical clearing of the few remaining solitary surviving trees that stand in the way of the automated steering systems utilised in the seeding machinery.'

... and:

'Sadly it is an obvious economic reality. The farmer is not a greedy cigar smoking magnate in a pinstriped suit but a hardworking sun bitten survivor. Inefficiencies must be eliminated if the enterprise is to remain competitive and viable.'


Until the true COST is factored into all farming inputs, processes & outputs, decisions will be made based on skewed cost/benefit. In this case, clearing trees is 'free', which results in precision furrowing etc 'costing less'.
Paul Ujj
Only 5 acres & it's just for fun.

duane
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Postby duane » Wed Feb 24, 2010 4:08 pm

Paul said:

Until the true COST is factored into all farming inputs


I couldn't agree MORE!!!


At the risk of repeating myself: (see my thread under A key to understanding NSF)

Until farmers and land managers, governments and agronomists learn that they are conducting agriculture within an ecosystem that is dependent on the prevention of the LOSS of biodiversity, of water, of carbon, of soil and nutrients and minerals NOT leaking out of their ecoSYSTEM.....then there is simply no HOPE for them.

They may all realise it one day, but sadly, I fear it will be too little, too late!

Their input costs currently, will always be greater than their income outputs....the only $$ winner will be the banks....but you can't eat their products.

I was told recently by a colleague that once there were over 5000 growers on his customer list. There are now <450 and dropping every year. What happens when the numbers of growers left =0????

It's a telling tale of what is happening right across the country!!!


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