The Healthy Farming Pathway event with Dr Christine Jones drew a capacity crowd for the Dandaragan Bowling Club on the 14th of February. Mostly known for Valentine’s Day, the recently gazetted National Regenerative Agriculture Day was far more about eliciting conversation around increasing above and below ground species diversity than exchanging Hallmark cards.
The day was supported by all the major stakeholders from government, local, industry and community groups and the room was full of the farmers essential to bringing the educational learnings to reality.
As the MC, I was proud to emphasise the significance of such a collaboration. Dr Christine Jones was funded by DPIRD to undergo the entire series of 8 workshops across WA which demonstrated an openness to her leading-edge nature-based science. RegenWA was sure to support this day and others on the tour. NACC was the major sponsor for this event, which included providing a bus to take attendees out to Murray Grey’s farm. In the paddock, we saw juicy green perennials photosynthesizing through summer and conserving any rain that fell on them. On arrival we were treated to bacon and eggs served from Simon Kruger and funded by the West Midlands Group. The Dandaragan CRC provided the rest of the day’s quality catering for the appreciative crowd in the makeshift restaurant at the Dandaragan Hall, a great space for easy networking. The CRC were instrumental well before the day in managing event ticketing, getting word out to local and regional towns, creating flyers, and putting notices literally everywhere possible.
Coordination of these stakeholders was undertaken by EarthWhile Australia and supported by local farmer and Soil Restoration Farming Coaching Community member, Christine Smith. The event was a culmination of a year’s work under the Healthy Farming Pathway project run by EarthWhile Australia, funded by the Shire of Dandaragan, and supported by the Dandaragan CRC and Soil Restoration Farming.
The message was clear from Dr Jones: We need to focus more on the inherent natural functions of a healthy soil, created in partnership with plants. It is the root exudates of plants from at least 4 functional plant families that builds soil health. The eye-opener for many, was that whilst the benefits of perennials and plant diversity was becoming more understood by farmers, multiple species of plants from one family such as grasses, was not going to provide the functionality that would allow a healthy robust soil. Healthy soils in turn grow healthy resilient plants that are much less susceptible to pests, disease, drought, frost, and other stresses.
Understanding what plants are a “right fit” for our landscapes is the biggest challenge for farmers considering how to increase above ground diversity. It is a major shift from market-based forces influencing decision-making. #Farming Hack – what wants to grow with no support is the clear indicator for what the land is needing. How can we find preferable plant species from the same plant family of so-called weeds to establish a partnership with nature rather than be at war with it?
Dr Jones left the audience with a question to guide their future decision-making: Will this practice increase microbial diversity or decrease microbial diversity?
It was a pleasure to MC this event and support the messages delivered to a room full of eager learners, industry and government.