17 Jul 2019, noon
She is more accustomed to answering questions but Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley put her audience in the hot seat over regenerative agriculture.
In a reversal of form, Ms Ley was the one asking questions when she was invited to attend the regenerative agriculture forum and field day hosted by Gill Sanbrook on her property Bibbaringa, Bowna.
When welcoming Ms Ley and introducing her, Ms Sanbrook said those who had embraced the concept and practice of regenerative agriculture, felt slightly isolated from the mainstream governmental agricultural and climate issues.
“We feel we are doing a lot for the environment but we are not being heard in relation to a lot of funding coming through to our way of thinking,” Ms Sanbrook said.
Ms Ley, who is the local Federal member, said she was interested in the response to her first question: “what is important to you that I should know about regenerative farming?”
Jill Coghlan, a beef producer from Gerogery, said her understanding in part about regenerative agriculture was about retaining the essence and purpose of water in our landscape.
“Yet we have government policies that do nothing to support the retention of water in our landscape,” she said.
Allysa Leveston, a landholder near Bowna has embraced the concept as being an inclusive process where she considers the heritage of the natural world in conjunction with her preferred agricultural practices.
“For us, regenerative agriculture is saying there are no recipes and there is not going to one thing that will fix it, but use a suite of different things like natural sequence farming to leave our land better than we came here,” she said. “We don’t believe we own our farm, we are stewards of that farm for the time we are here and we want more bio-diversity, better soils and our water should be leaving the farm better than when it came onto our farm.”
Michael Gooden, from Sandigo west of Wagga Wagga, said his definition of regenerative agriculture was addressing the root causes of any and every problem and by doing that other issues would be solved.
“We should be focusing on storing soil carbon … if you are improving soil carbon you are managing ground cover and soil health,” he said.
“The really exciting thing about all that is the flow on effects not only in the landscape but in the food we produce which will be more healthy. I think that is where the big opportunities are.”
For Robyn Nielsen, who has land near Bungendore, regenerative agriculture is not simply about farming but about regenerative land management.
“We don’t farm, but we are trying to regenerate the landscape of our small property,” she said. “We are custodians of what we inherited and are trying to make it better.”
She said the concept also needed to be applied to urban environments as well as it was a holistic approach and not just applied to the country but to those who live in town.
Rebecca Gorman was concerned about the current agricultural direction of ‘get big or get out’.
“That has been the narrative that has caused the downward spiral of communities and the disintegration of connection with the land,” she said.
“For me a part of regenerative agriculture is rethinking what we do with our food once we grow it … who does it go to and how far it goes?
“I am looking broadly at the whole, not just on farm.”