Custodians of the land
Leaving the farm better than we found it
The majority of farmers think of themselves as custodians of the land for subsequent generations. As fifth-generation farmers, with the sixth on the ground, it is our aim to leave the farm in better order than we found it. The first part of our journey has been transitioning away from synthetic fertilisers and chemicals in our grazing country. Without a doubt, a multi-species, rotationally grazed pasture is doing magical things to the soil. By looking after the soil we build up the microbes that activate all the goodness that's transferred to the plants and animals grazing on top. The benefit of this process can be seen at harvest time - when the fruit or seed, plant or grazing animal that is harvested is a premium product. It's had the benefit of having accessed the best available nutrients the soil has to offer. This is an important thing for the consumer. It means we are able to consume produce that is of the highest possible quality. It means all those healthy nutrients are in the plant or animal. That's what healthy eating is, taking the best the soil has to offer and turning it into food so we can function at our optimum. Humans can't function at their optimum if our energy comes from calories alone, it has to come from nutrient-dense food, and nutrient dense food only comes from healthy soils.
Reinventing food production and challenging the status quo
It's important we don't criticise traditional farming methods - they have successfully fed a growing world population and an emerging middle class by adapting to change and embracing technology for the past 80 years. They have met demand and their market in an impressive way. They have developed the farming land, built infrastructure and laid the foundation for emerging agriculture. They created systems that have been by modern measurements, both profitable and productive. At Outback Lamb we now find ourselves moving on from this system to the next stage in the process of farming and feeding the world.
Science tells us the story about where the planet is headed. We know we will continue to experience more extreme weather events, more frequently. It is crucial we recognise that it is possible to do better. We are on the cusp of an emerging digital and data revolution, not dissimilar to the industrial revolution. Now is the time to truly evaluate what we do and how we continue to farm and how we choose to consume. We need to challenge traditional farming methods and come up with a model that best meets the emerging needs of the people and our planet.
There are two main problems facing our earth, food security and climate change. Farming is on the front line of both of these challenges. We need to re-imagine agriculture and what we want it to look like in the future. If we challenge the status quo and shoot for the stars, then it is possible for us to start producing the food that properly nourishes people at the same time that we are producing the carbon the planet needs to thrive.
BUILDING CARBON IN THE SOIL
Carbon- conscious farmers work with nature, not against it, with a focus on the health of their soils for future generations. By feeding the soil not the plant and capturing available moisture, utilising sunlight and understanding and encouraging soil biology its possible to build carbon in soils. For farmers that are serious about this, it is comforting to know that these approaches are backed up by hard science. As farmers, we understand that we must protect good soils, repair damaged soils and farm in a way that ensures our role as custodians of the land for our time here. One of the best ways to build carbon is to reduce dependency on chemical fertilisers made from non-renewable fossil fuels and that also reduce soil health.
Our long term goal is to be able to utilise the carbon we produce by including it as another value add component to our existing farm operation. This focus fits perfectly into our vision of not being solely driven by increases in cropping and animal productivity as a means of remaining viable as a family farming operation.
Listen to Outback Lamb's farming story in podcast interview 'Seeds For Success'
Fiona Aveyard and her husband Bill run Outback Lamb, run a vertically-integrated farming business focusing on single-origin pasture-fed lamb. It's part of their commercial sheep and cropping operation, 'Westpoint', near Tullamore. With a focus on regenerative agriculture and a passion for food provenance, they are part of the movement that represents the emerging modern Australian farmer.
Looking to secure the future for their four children, Bill and Fiona came up with a creative approach to growing their business. And in this episode, you'll hear how this plan, combined with a gradual embrace of social media, has allowed them to extend the reach of their 'paddock to plate' story and create a business where their eye is firmly focused on people, the planet and their local community.
Building soil carbon is relatively straightforward: minimise carbon losses to the atmosphere, and maximise additions of carbon to the soil.
Planning to be carbon neutral by 2030
The Australian red meat and livestock industry has set the target to be carbon neutral by 2030, meaning we will make no net release of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. It is important as an industry that we stay ahead of current and future community expectations regarding our environmental credentials and Australia's position as a producer of high value, clean, safe and natural protein.
At 'Westpoint' one way could meet this goal is to plant out a further 20% of our land to trees. Sadly, it's not that simple so instead, we've identified some strategies to enable us to be carbon neutral. Outback Lamb is a big part of this plan, with our vision being simple, less livestock generating a greater return. Grass-fed production, regenerative pastures, value-adding and whole animal consumption underpin this strategy.