Phillip Island beef and sheep farmer, Bill Cleeland, and Bass Coast Landcare Network’s Joel Geoghegan discuss climate change challenges faced by farmers in Southern Gippsland.

Mark and Margaret Brammar from Strzelecki Heritage Apples displaying some of their produce on their Strzelecki property.

A COMMUNITY-LED collaboration is harnessing local knowledge for a positive regional response to climate change.
The Growing Southern Gippsland project is profiling local farmers successfully adapting to climate change, running knowledge-sharing workshops on local farms and providing tailored scientific and business management resources via a new website.
It’s a promising model that has potential in other agricultural regions too.
Project manager from Bass Coast Landcare Network, Joel Geoghegan, said the project’s strength was in bringing together farmers, Landcare networks, university researchers and government to share resources and expertise in a locally relevant way.
“Farmers have a deep knowledge about the changing seasons governing how they manage their farming enterprises and need to learn to be more flexible in the face of extreme weather events,” Geoghegan said.
“Sharing that knowledge along with insights from scientists and business experts in a way that can support decision-making for farmers is extremely exciting.
“The project’s future legacy will be its key measure of success.”
The Victorian Centre for Climate Change Innovation funded collaboration is being led by Bass Coast Landcare Network with support from RMIT University, Federation University, Bass Coast Shire Council and South Gippsland Landcare Network.
RMIT University employment expert Professor Peter Fairbrother surveyed many farmers across the region before settling on 12 for more in-depth analysis.
These case studies represent a range of landscapes and industries from dairy and livestock to fruit and vegetable and wine and cheese makers.
“The variety of creative business responses to the changing conditions has been really impressive to see and will no doubt be of interest to others facing similar challenges. There is much to learn from these farming households,” Fairbrother said.
“Of note is the way these farming households learn, experiment and adapt in relation to levels of the whole food value chain in which they are located.”
The soon-to-be-launched Growing Southern Gippsland website will promote the case studies along with resources for the region’s landowners to refer to when considering how they will manage their farm enterprise.
Climate change researcher at Federation University, Dr Jessica Reeves, said the project enabled more tailored approaches by all partners.
“It will better enable researchers to ‘learn from farmers’ experiences on the land, while farmers will be able to tap into science and business expertise to help them adapt to these changes as effectively as possible,” she said.
The agricultural sector in Southern Gippsland is the most productive in Victoria, accounting for over $2 billion in gross regional product.
A region of recent growth and transition, Southern Gippsland is uniquely placed to adapt to take advantage of climate change and transition into growing niche and premium markets across a whole range of industries.
“By encouraging action, innovation, diversification and collaboration between agriculture, researchers, community and government, Growing Southern Gippsland aims to drive greater awareness and investment into high-impact innovations in the region,” Geoghegan said.