FARMERS are resilient people. They have been coping with climate variations forever.
They have also been looking after their land – their biggest asset for years, sometimes generations.
While they have been learning on the job for many years, they still require help, knowledge, expertise and skills to make the best decisions for their land.
Rather than struggle and muddle through on their own, farmers last Friday attended an agro-diversity seminar.
While the rain was howling farmers were introduced to local producers who have navigated change and innovated to find the sweet spot of farming – leaving the land in a better state, profit and life balance.
“Resilience is a whole part of our business – it’s not just about on-farm,” Amelia Bright from Amber Creek Farm and Sawmill said.
“Our business plan is to go beyond resilience – go beyond survival, it’s about taking advantage of change.”
For Nadine and Clive Verboon, resilience and ‘taking advantage of change’ was forced on the family.
The Verboons diversified into beef, pork and smallgoods, while also opening the farm to the public – particularly school tours.
“We bought our dairy farm in 2003,” Nadine said, saying she had ideas that it would be such a joy on the farm, playing with baby animals – now she admits her rose tinted glasses were blinding.
“We grew our dairy herd, we listened to the consultants, we listened to the fertiliser reps and followed all the advice.
“All that listening didn’t help when we were confronted with drought, the milk price crash and floods.”
She said in 2012 the family woke up to a farm completely underwater: “The Foster and Powlett rivers met for the very first time,” she said, able to laugh about the situation now.
“We shut down the farm for five and a half months; we sold some of our cattle to be able to keep the farm, we parked 50 on another property and then we sat down and said ‘what are we going to do?’”
A farm plan saw the Verboons take advantage of their existing skills – Nadine’s marketing, photography and hospitality background; Clive keeping up with concreting.
Importantly, the Verboons also downsized and diversified.
Nadine shared how the family thrived with the 20 or so farmers at the agro-diversity forum for the Southern Gippsland Agricultural Climate Resilience Project.
The practical advice from farmers to farmers included Malcolm Cock from Farm Dynamics who discussed farm business planning; Tom Abbottsmith Youl from Tom’s Paddock (Glenburn) on finding the balance between conservation, life balance and primary production, Amelia Bright from Amber Creek Farm and Sawmill in Fish Creek, Nadine Verboon from Wattlebank Park Farm, Ilan Goldman from Mirboo Pastured Poultry, Meg Parkinson from Annies Free Range Eggs in Fish Creek, and Bronwyn Brandon from Prom Country Cheese at Moyarra.
Practical advice from diverse farmers