Exploring Sustainable Agriculture

A two-day bus trip across Gippsland in April highlighted the successes and challenges facing agriculture in the region.

Hosted by the West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority (WGCMA), the trip covered some 400 kilometres and included diverse projects on dairy farms, grazing and sustainable irrigation. The 23 tour participants included AgVic, Landcare and CMA representatives from West Gippsland, North Central, Goulburn Broken, Wimmera, Mallee, Glenelg Hopkins, Corangamite, Port Phillip and Westernport.

WGCMA Chair, Peter Jennings, described the tour as an incredible learning opportunity. “Over the two days, we saw how the challenges faced by local farmers are being addressed, and had a chance to exchange knowledge,” said Mr Jennings. As well as the impact of climate change, Mr Jennings listed the ageing population, changing demographics and competition for funding as some of the key challenges for the region.

The tour itinerary consisted of site visits to several farms that were involved in a range of government initiatives. These included a dairy farm in Ellinbank, a sheep dairy / cheesemaker in Moyarra, a beef property in Foster, a beef and sheep farm in Perry Bridge and an irrigated dairy near Maffra. The landowners shared insights into how the various CMA projects had increased their knowledge and improved farming practices, before taking the group on a guided walk around the property.

The visits were complemented by presentations and discussion groups, with topics encompassing industry partnerships, farm and soil management plans, grazing programs, intensive vegetable production and innovative farming techniques.

Mr Jennings said although a wide range of issues and projects were discussed throughout the tour, several key themes emerged. “The projects we looked at were delivered through a range of partners, from the private sector to Landcare networks and different government agencies,” explained Mr Jennings. “In every case, the importance of strong partnerships and trust was a common theme.”

“The fact the programs took into consideration the individual needs of different farmers, and that the funding helped remove the cost hurdle of capital investment, was also considered a major factor in their success.”

The tour was funded through Healthy Soils – Sustainable Farms. This is part of the WGCMA Sustainable Ag program that aims to build skills and knowledge, support best practice and encourage innovation. The program focuses on increasing profits through on-farm efficiency while decreasing the impact of sediments and nutrients on the waterways.

Healthy Soils – Sustainable Farms is supported by West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

People standing in dairy paddock
Ron Paynter (dairy farmer), Peter Jennings (Chair, WGCMA) and Jenny O’Sullivan (Gippsland Food Adventures) welcome participants on the bus trip
People in a paddock
Perry Bridge farmers, Jen Ribolli and David Read, explain their regenerative grass farming management. Also pictured, tour organisers Jenny O’Sullivan (Gippsland Food Adventures) and Tony Gardner (WGCMA)
Irrigation pump
Ross Allan demonstrates high flood irrigation pump on his Boisdale farm