Management for Tree Crops
Organization:Chris Ferreira Landcare Solutions
17 Mangles Street
Warnborough WA 6169
Landcare Solutions Mobile Service 0409 662 704
An analysis of the process of farm planning; informing, raising awareness, and educating landholders.
…We would begin to say the priority is to create the green frameworks. So, once again, if this is our landscape, and here is our fencing system. If this is our aerial photo, remember, at the beginning, we said, Where is North? Where are the cold winds coming from, where are the hot, dry winds coming from? We start to create the green framework. I know most of you are here today because you have a passion for some form of tree crops. That is wonderful. What we say, and stress so much, is that the negative effects of the winds are underestimated. Particularly for its impact on the landscape. We would be saying, create that green framework. If you like, the green framework is like the skeletal system for a body: it’s the thing that holds it all together, supports it, and ultimately, allows it to function.
The green framework, in other words, shelter belts or windbreaks, hedgerows, there are many different examples of what we would call the green framework. Putting those around the landscape means that everything, within here, is going to be more productive. So we use the analogy of what is a good shelterbelt. Most people would say they would put a single row of fast-growing Blue gums on the boundary. Blue gum, Eucalyptus globulus, is a very fast-growing eucalypt. A lot of people like to plant it because they think they will get an instant effect. But what happens when that Blue gum, like most eucalypts or trees, what happens when they grow up? They lose their lower branches. So you end up with this sort of shape. So, instead of controlling the wind, we actually funnel the wind, so the wind is driven down and becomes faster at ground level. Instead of solving a problem, we create a new one. I think that happened quite a lot in Esperance with Tuart shelter belts. So a lot of them were coppiced to create that understory effect. We would say to them that there is design. Everything needs to come back to the right design. So, we would say, instead of a single row of trees, we would look, for instance, at creating a diversity within our green frameworks. Once again, whatever the landcare initiative you want put on the landscape, make sure it works for you in as many ways as possible.
So, a single row shelterbelt will cost less in terms of trees, but it is going to cost you more because of less productivity. But if we put into this place a range of local, endemic plants, in other words, those that are local to that region, we can have wonderful wildlife benefits. You may have a piece of bushland here, and a piece of bushland here outside of your property. This becomes a wildlife corridor which we mentioned during the slide break. An ability for organisms living in here to migrate through the system and ultimately create links, a web back on that landscape, so that we can have a functional ecosystem in that environment.
But these plants can be productive, as well. We would say, if these are your sheep in this paddock here, these plants here could be fodder, for instance. These could be plants we could cut and throw over the fence to feed our animals. Here is a sample of tagasaste. Anyone passionately into native plants will ignore that tagasaste, but in the right context it is a wonderful and productive plant. Acacia saligna, which is a native, a wattle, both of them could be integrated into the front section of our shelterbelt so they can be lopped and fed to the animals. They are adding nitrogen to the soil, so that means that the pasture area on this side is not being robbed of nutrients to anywhere near the degree of just a single row of fast-growing eucalypts. And we are creating a high-value feed for our stock.
We could be putting in here a whole range of understory plants, colourful plants, which are going to allow us to produce honey. We may be able to collect seeds. Increasingly, if we are going to revegetate this wide brown land of ours, we are going to need seed sources, preferably those that are growing in that local environment.
We can begin to create economic opportunities. These could become high-value timber. If we coppice them, cut them selectively, a great many of our native plants will regrow from the base, so we are not destroying the integrity of our shelterbelt--we are just allowing it to provide sustained, carefully created timber opportunities.
Fundamentally, by having this range of plants, we are making sure that if this is a wind coming through at 30 knots, and it is a howling hot, dry easterly wind. Traditionally, a hot, dry wind in a landscape like this, where there is nothing, that wind is going to come across there like a furnace. It will dry out the plants. And we tell them about the organisms: every organism on the planet likes to live within its natural comfort range. If a horse or a sheep or cow, what ever it is, is your preferred animal, it has to spend time keeping itself cool. It's sweating, that's energy lost. It's cold, because there is a freezing cold wind coming across that landscape in winter, it's shivering to keep warm. Either way, that is energy lost from the production of meat, wool, milk, whatever it is you want those animals there for. Either way, the animals are going to be stressed, they will not be as healthy, they will be more susceptible to illness, vet bills are going to go up.
The same with our plants. It has been estimated if there is a hot, dry wind coming through the landscape, the stomata of our plants will shut down, because it is a mechanism to prevent excessive loss of water. So if it is a hot, dry wind coming through here, our plants are less productive, having to shut down. The hot, dry winds mean that annual plants will die off earlier and faster than if we have good shelter on the landscape.
So, our shelterbelts, as we say, become the microclimate; they improve the microclimate for everything we are trying to grow. And we would say that that is your number one priority. If you are trying to sort through how you actually go about creating this, start with step number one, and that is green frameworks. Try and create a microclimate within which everything you want to do on your farm is going to be more productive, whether it is growing carobs, peaches, alpacas, whatever it is you are trying to do.
So that becomes a priority system for people. We would start to say, try and work out priorities for each of those years. Year one, maybe the green frameworks and you can do the eastern shelterbelt. That's number one. Maybe you have got five kilometres of shelterbelts and you can do one kilometre a year. Year two, you may continue the green frameworks, but you may also be looking at putting that dam in because you have sighted through your soil testing this beautiful white clay halfway up the hill. Great! I can make a dam on the side of the hill, actually hold some water. I can use that for productivity later on down the track.
You may say, Year number three, now that I have a farm plan I can go to my local Landcare office and show them the farm plan, and they will say, "Good on you, you have done a great job, you have a plan in place. We will actually provide some funding for you to, say, fence off your bushland."
And that is one of the other advantages, that we would say to anyone who does a farm plan, that it provides you with the tools or mechanisms to improve your productivity or to gain subsidies or assistance. Just like if you try to get money from a bank to set up a new business. If you don't go in with a business plan, they would say, "Are you serious? Why would we trust you and give our money to you?" The same if you go to a Landcare group or even the Tax office to try and demonstrate you are a primary producer. If you have a good farm plan you have got a much greater chance of being able to get the assistance, etc. So, we would start to get them to work out a priority system.
Finally, we would say, come up with your own Landcare calendar. Like all calendars, we would say, this should be on the fridge, next to the kids' paintings, next to the latest party invite, the Landcare calendar is on the fridge. You break down this whole range of issues you are trying to deal with to create that wonderful vision you came up with. You break it up according to the months of the year. If this progresses in this state, I would love to see that we come out with Landcare calendars each year. And they have a beautiful, glossy photo of a magnificent, sustainable farm showing wonderful integration of trees and pasture and beautiful crops, so people will look at it on the fridge and say, "That's heaven. That's what I want."
Critically, for us, the Landcare calendar allows us to work at the different issues that need to be tackled here at the right time. For instance, if you had in here that you were going to control that patch of scotch thistle, because again, the Farm plan is not just improvements in terms of shelter belts, etc., it is dealing with some of the problems you have, like maybe salinity, weed problems. Each of those different months, you would start to try and suggest the various things that need to be done. For us in WA, for instance, over January, February, March, if we don't have irrigation, we need to be changing our grazing systems. Because the natural productivity of the landscape has dropped: there is no moisture, the whole system is estivating, just hanging in there waiting for the next productive system which is probably around May or April.
So we would be saying, you would reduce grazing, if that is something you have on the landscape. There would be no burning. It's amazing how many people have started fires because they didn't realise the exhaust of their vehicle could start a fire if they drove across the paddock in January. They didn't realise that using the grinder while building the new shed was going to start fires. You would once again, try to give them some fairly important things to remember, things they need to consider. Maybe you have been a bit late with the trickle irrigation, but that might be important. You would start working through these different things, so people start to get a sense that there is always something to do on the landscape. No matter what the time of year, you should be planning for something that is coming up, or you should be minimising potential threats or problems.
For instance, in April, you may say you have Paterson's Curse. Paterson's Curse is a delightful weed that has come into this country. It has beautiful purple flowers. Lots of people take photos of it because it looks wonderful on the hillsides. But it is a real curse for the farmer. It smothers out plants, it is toxic at certain times of the year, incredibly invasive, and is very difficult to get rid of when you find it on your landscape. What most people don't know is that in any weed control strategy there is a right time and a wrong time to control a particular weed. So we would say, you need to know what are the weeds on your landscape, and what are the best ways to control them. The best time to control Paterson's Curse is just when it germinates, when it is only little rosettes on the landscape. But if you didn't know what it looked like when it was young, you wouldn't know that is the time to hit it. You probably spray it when it is purple, which is the wrong time to hit it because it has finished growth, it is flowering and setting seed. If you are using chemicals, any effect of the chemicals is completely lost. So all you are doing is wasting money and polluting the environment for very little positive impact.
So, you would get start to get them to think in terms this sort of thing. This might be the time to start doing direct seeding in our bushland: putting the seed out nice and early. We would maybe be able to do the burning off. We have been stockpiling things we want to burn, maybe we have a gap in our bush area and we want to create some regeneration potential. So we would stack that wood up in a nice open place in the bush area, so the heat is not going to kill the canopy of the existing plants. We would burn that off knowing, perhaps, that we would do the direct seeding after that, so that we are creating the conditions to be able to satisfy that component, which may be fencing off and revegetating the bushland.
Either way, it allows you to come up with the best strategy. If I can draw it back to that recipe concept, if we have that wonderful picture of the food that we are inspired to eat, you have to have a recipe in order to create that. This becomes the recipe that goes with the beautiful vision, the blueprint, of what you want your property to be in the future. We try and arm people as well, so they do a calendar. This calendar is going to be different depending on the landscape you are in.
We try as much as possible to arm them with contacts, because, in most cases, there is an enormous amount of expertise out in that environment. In this room right here is just an incredible wealth of knowledge and understanding. As much as possible, you try and link people in. So you would ask them, who is your local landcare group, And, local landcare officer? Who can you contact to get, firstly, local landcare experience, what we call landcare legends, in any environment, who are the movers and shakers. They will have been there and done that. Instead of you reinventing the wheel, you can go to them and say, "I want to try this." And they might say, "No, that won't work, try that." "That's not the right species for here, blah, blah, blah." They can help you with that.
The actual structure of Landcare is not uniform, you can't definitely say that every area is going to have a landcare officer. But in most cases there will be someone, in some form, who is paid, directly or indirectly, to provide advice on landcare. That is very, very important. You would give them information about AgWA, CALM, and some of the really great organisations that are doing work, Men of the Trees, The Land Management Society, a whole range of them. Again, I would love to see a landcare calendar in the future and also a services directory. We have one for Rockingham/Kwinana rural environment, but it becomes a yellow pages for green work on the landscape. So you can look in your green pages to find, for example, who are the local earth moving contractors, who can test my soil, who can come and do plant analysis, who can provide seed for me, where can I buy plants. Green pages for all the various things you would like to do on your landscape, to provide you with the contacts to let you know where you can get those services or goods.
It sounds like a long-winded process, but we have been able to get success with this in a day, or two days. Two days is great because you can go into a lot of detail about specialist subjects. It is a very exciting program, and that really is the essence of what farm planning is. From half an acre to ten thousand acres or more. The processes are very much the same. That is what drives the concept of property planning, and will provide the foundations for new and sustainable agriculture into the future.
Q. In my part of the world, farmers work traditionally, with methods passed down many generations. What strategies do you use to get new ideas about farm planning across?
A. That is an excellent question. I would be lying if I said that farmers in Australia are any different. I think it is just human nature, you will get 5% or 10% who are real innovators and grab it and run with it, embrace the whole concept. They become the role models in the community. Some peer pressure is going to help. It is an integrated approach, it is water on a stone, I think. Peer pressure over a period of time, making an impact. Then there will be government literature. To a greater or lesser degree, these are respected organisations, so they will be putting out policy documents, brochures, literature, which is providing a range of technical or superficial information, encouraging people to do this. Again, that is just working away in the background, trying to change things. One of the keys, obviously, is subsidies. In some areas it is up to 50% subsidies. In Australia we have the Natural Heritage Trust. Now this is Landcare funding, and that is what came from the sale of telecommunications systems, it was about a billion dollars. Most of it is gone now. There will be another pot of money from somewhere, problems are only getting worse, not better. What I think we need to do with these plans, as much as possible, is try to integrate the change so it can be done at a reasonable rate of change. The rate of change, I think, is often what scares people. Often they will say, "You want me to change my farming overnight."
I had a run-in with a farmer last week, and I have to call it a run-in. She is an old-timer in my area, has been farming for 70 years. She has a piece of land with this last remnant, this last piece of bush in this whole region of Baldivis. It's quite precious. But she has got her cattle in there. She has two different types of land in this paddock. The animals are getting in and grazing it. I said to her, "We can get some funding through a funding body to help fence that off and protect it." She said, "Where are my cows going to get their shelter?" So I said, "Well, what we would do is integrate some shelter belts, maybe along the fence lines, etc., perhaps some in the centre, shading areas. And what we would do, as a trade-off for fencing it off, is that the animals could still get access to that at the critical time of the year when it is very hot and dry, for the first two to three years, until these plants take off and do the job in the long term." So you are saying it's a bit of a compromise. You would like to fence that bush off yesterday and never have another animal in there, but she is a farmer, she has to make her living from the farm, so you would be trying to shift and change it over time. It'll take three years for those trees to do the shading and shelter effect, and they will do a much better job than this, but it is going to take time. So you would try to integrate that change over a period. She actually didn't like that very much, and then burst into tears and said, "I'm not changing the way I do things." That is what is called 'cognitive dissonance': when we are confronted with something that is completely against everything we often react by screaming or yelling or abusing, which is what she did. I am hoping she will think about it, and see that it does make sense.
The other thing linking with the peer pressure, is to see what I will call, farmers in action. Often, if people are resistant to change, they will use any excuse to not do something. They will say, "It's all right for a government advisor to tell me I should put in shelter belts. What does he know? He drives around in a flash car, lives in the city. What would he know?" But if they go and see a farmer who is just like them, has the same debts, the same problems, the same issues to contend with, but he is doing it, it starts to break down some of these barriers, these objections that "it is just not possible." I think all of those in combination are going to make it easier for people to make that change.
We talked about subsidies, perhaps incentives. So it is not surprising that enormous amounts of land in the southwest of WA are now going under Blue gums and pines. The reason being that there is a direct incentive. The government, CALM, which is one arm, our forestry department, and a few private businesses, are now paying farmers to plant trees on their landscape. They pay them rent, so the farmer gets, I think, about $150 per hectare. A traditional wheat farm would earn perhaps $110 per hectare, so if he can get $150 per hectare from trees, that makes sense. So, not surprisingly, the incentives have been taken up by farmers. It's just enough so that lots of them do it. That snowballs the peer pressure.
So, where does that leave us? In broadscale landcare, we have still got a long way to go. We had one billion dollars dedicated to landcare, and as we know, recent estimates say we need about sixty two billion dollars to solve the problem. A great deal of that, providing the incentives and subsidies for farmers to make the changes. The Blue gum model is a great one, growing fast-growing trees for pulp. We need similar incentives for bush regeneration and management of our bush lands. We need similar incentives for things like growing oil mallees, high-value timber trees in lower rainfall areas, etc., etc.
Where is that money going to come from? I don't know, but I would imagine probably from landcare taxes. So when you buy a packet of pasta or meat pie, it will say, "2% of this is a landcare tax." And that money will go to a landcare foundation, come governing body that would distribute that money, I would imagine. It was interesting, the national budget handed down last year had the first-ever acknowledgement that there is an environmental cost to the economic agenda that is being pushed. Treasury, which normally lives in a vacuum, suggested that, yes, there is some environmental cost, and the murmurings that we will have landcare taxes are being bandied around. There are plenty of people who keep trying to snuff it out, but I think it is really the only way we can move forward. Because we all need the landscape to provide for us. If we don't pay for it, who is?
Q. How do people begin interacting with you? Do the farmers come to you, or do you go to the farmers?
A. There is a system where the landcare officers will try and run landcare workshops. Particularly in combination with the Ag Department. The sad thing is our Ag Department had very big budget cuts. They had a 25% budget cut last year, and they are getting more cuts again. In the good old days, they used to run quite a few farm-planning workshops, where farmers would be encouraged to come along. They would basically try and run it through the local Landcare groups, which is run by the locals, themselves. An example of this one here, because there is some money gone into it, it is being run through the Landcare offices again, but very much with Ag money subsidising it. So people can come and do this course for $25. That's incredible. It includes an aerial photo. That would normally cost $300 to $400. If the incentives are there, surprise, surprise, you get a lot more people doing it. Those courses are either run officially through a local Landcare group in combination with a paid Landcare officer and often the Ag Department as well. But there is no set formula for how they actually run these programs. There will be Landcare courses running around the state at any particular time. One particular catchment group might be running a landcare course, and they would encourage farmers to come along.
Q. Farmers traditionally regard native bush as 'rubbish.' How are you getting them to change their opinions in this regard?
A. That is another very good question. In terms of incentives for farmers to fence off their bushland, there are a few things. CALM has a program called Land for Wildlife, Greening Australia, WA, which is a non-government organisation, have their bushcare program. They have paid officers who go around to people bushland on their property and basically will encourage them to manage that bush. They will encourage them by providing detailed on-site assessments, they will come and have a look at your bush, and they will do a farm plan for you. Then they give you a lot of resources, including technical resources, to help you manage that bush. And they can help you to get in contact with some of the subsidy schemes to look after fencing. Because fencing is probably the most expensive part of that program. Fencing is anywhere from $600 to $3000 or $4000 per kilometre, depending on the type of soil you are trying to fence off. There are funding bodies that would provide a small amount of that money, such as Gordon Reid, Lotteries Commission, and of course, the NHT will provide funding. In some instances, companies like Alcoa will provide funding for fencing. I would be lying if I said there is enough money to assist farmers to do the fencing that is required. I have heard that with the state government fencing arrangement, about 10% of the money required is there. There are still a lot of farmers who don't get the funding incentives.
Why would you encourage them to do it? We would basically look at the biodiversity issue. So we would talk about such things as grasshopper plagues. We would say, "Why is having bush on your land going to help with the grasshoppers?" They would think about it and we would say, "Grasshoppers are a grassland species. They are native, but we have cleared so much of the bush we created the environment for the grasshoppers to go mad." We not only created the grasslands, which are their preferred habitat, but we have given them endless food and water. And, by removing the bush, we have removed their predators. So all we have done, by removing the biodiversity, is set in place all the ingredients for a biological plague. Biodiversity is an insurance policy. If you lose your crop to grasshoppers, how much financial loss? Biodiversity is part of your natural insurance policy.
Then we would start to look at things like honey, timber, seed, that are all potentially sources of income from farms. That is where these guys are really good because they do case studies on farmers who have managed their bush, and some of the incentives. If a farmer is managing his bush and making a bit of money, that's all right. It is not some boffin from Perth telling me to do it, so you get the role model effect.
Finally, there are things that are beginning to come into play. There are incentives looming on the horizon in terms of land taxes and rates. Some of the progressive shires are waiving land taxes and rates on bushland. Which is excellent. Why should you pay full productive rates for a piece of bushland you are preserving, not just for you but for community benefit? They are all incentives that are progressively coming in, but I am afraid there is no uniform standard. Some shires are definitely doing that, and that is an incentive for a farmer, because he is saving money on that land.
And, of course, you would always be encouraging them to think of it in terms of recharge and discharge, where the water is going into the landscape. If it has trees and shrubs it is going to protect your farmland in terms of salinity and erosion. You try and integrate it into that whole package that, if you don't use the water where it falls, it is going to cause problems somewhere else on the landscape.
Q. Most shires require bare-earth firebreaks. Do any of them think in terms of planting fire-suppressing trees as a substitute?
A. That is one of the things that is moving and changing, but there is no uniform standard. They call it a firebreak because in the old days people used to think it would magically stop a wild fire from crossing their boundary. It is normally about 3 metres wide. It is actually a fire access track that allows fire-fighting equipment and people to move around your property to put out the fire, cut fences to let stock out, etc. The big problem has always been that they said it had to be plowed, rotary hoed and left as a bare, open stretch. It causes a lot of problems in terms of wind erosion, and if it is on the side of a hill, massive soil erosion with water scouring. Increasingly, the fire departments of WA are actively encouraging, which is really good news, some alternatives. For instance, it might be possible, if you have perennial pasture, rose grass or kikuyu or the like, and you keep it mowed, that is fine, as long as it it 3 m wide and 3 m high. It is a corridor, the guys can race down there with the fire truck and there are no branches that are going to knock anybody off the truck. That could be anything from pigface to some of the native groundcovers like Kennedia, through to some of the perennial grasses that are well-mowed. If you like to ride horses or vehicles on a regular basis, have that as your dedicated track. Make it a dual-purpose track. If you can, put in fire-retardant trees. They are even getting to the point where, if these are all fire-retardant trees and that is pasture, they might say no firebreak is necessary. So that is good, that is a positive change, they are being more open to the new ideas that are coming along.
Q. Tell us about the Men of the Trees.
A. Men of the Trees is a volunteer organisatiion that is dedicated to the planting and the protection of trees. We spend a lot of time trying to educate people about the value of trees. We spend a lot of time trying to encourage people to plant trees. Our major focus is on farmland, assisting with the physical planting of trees on farms, those green frameworks. Establishing examples of some of the systems they could use on their own farms. We have a farm in the wheatbelt where we look at various tree crops. We have olives out there, pistachios and macadamias, etc. Different things, to try and encourage people to look at different ways, but all coming from the perspective that we need to value the role of trees on the landscape, both from a biological, local ecological perspective, through to a production perspective. It is non-government and they are based around the world. There are 54 countries with Men of the Trees. It is similar to Greening Australia, but they are probably more from a policy point of view for providing educational materials, etc. Men of the Trees has three nurseries in WA, we grow and plant a lot of trees on farms and high profile sites. We have something called the 'Million Trees Project.' School groups grow trees for a particular farmer. The aim is to have 250 schools, each growing 4000 trees, and planting them all on the one day on Arbor Day. So you get a million trees planted by school kids on a day in the farmland. It's a wonderful idea, getting school kids out and getting that link between the urban and the rural. 95% of the people in Australia are urban. There is some shocking statistic that 90% of West Australians have never been further east of Northam. Most of us, we have never been to the wheatbelt. We don't even know its value, let alone the precarious state that it is in. Getting people of all ages to actually plant trees, go out into the wheatbelt and see first hand, is one of our major missions. So you are getting that big change in attitude as well as on-the-ground positive improvements.
That is just one program, the schools based program. We have a farm tree help scheme where urban people will grow trees in their back yard for a particular farmer. So they get linked up with a farmer. We have people who have been growing trees for a farmer for 7 or 8 years. The family all goes out to plant trees on a farmer's farm, it is again another wonderful way to get people bridging that gap, and seeing the positive benefit of their work on that landscape, and building that relationship between farmers and landholders.
He was probably choosing species for the sand on the surface, not knowing that what he needed to do was choose plants that could tolerate that most limiting of factors which was, in this case, the high pH. So we look at doing combinations of things like biological, in terms of adding things and choosing the right species, and the mechanical.
This all leads back to point number 2, which is where we would get them to do a soil map. So they can begin to map out the different soils on their landscape. As we showed on this aerial photo, it shows the different soils. We would encourage them to do that, because if they don't understand not only the types of soil but also the distribution on the landscape, they will find it very difficult to make the best of the landscape and to reduce the negative effects of degradation. If they understand that degradation is really because we haven't understood the soil and its limiting factors, and worked within those limits or improved the landscape on those conditions, you are really going to be battling.
Once we have a soil map in place, we can start looking at this wonderful thing, the land management units. In many cases there would be two or three overlays. This would be our first overlay, the soil map may be our second. Our third, depending on the size of the property, would be the land management units. Or, as some people call them, LMUs. What does that mean? It is just a fancy term for saying that on your farm there are different types of land. Each one of those land units needs to be managed according to its characteristics.
For instance, if this is your farm, again an aerial view. And that is bushland, and this is sandy soil through here. This may be pasture, but it is all on sand. Traditionally the farmer would probably have his fence something like that. This may be clay soil through here. By putting everything in the one paddock, he is basically making the assumption, probably didn't really think about it, that everything in that paddock is the same land type. If he puts 20 horses into there, what is going to happen? This area in the sand is going to become eroded, this area will be damaged. Basically, even though they are the same soil type, which our soil map would have shown, they are completely different land units. If we manage them the same, then something is going to suffer. In this instance, we would say that he has two different land units, and his fencing, as much as possible, changed the landscape. You should use the land according to the different land types. In this instance we would say, that is bush: it is precious and needs to be managed for its own uses and its own integrity. Having horses, sheep, cattle, whatever, in there, is obviously going to degrade that piece of land.
We would encourage them to work out the different land management units. There may be soil types as land management units, there may be vegetation types, there may be a creek line running through on a clay soil. Again, there is clay soil, but it is a completely different land management unit than the clay pasture or vineyard or stone fruit crop right next door. They are completely different, they need to be managed differently. They have different characteristics. The way that they are managing their land in an ad hoc process, is not taking account of the differences in that landscape. At the very beginning I said to you that so often we buy a property and we don't even consider the concept of planning it. Whereas if we built a house, we would plan it. We would never consider building a house without a plan of some sort. But we don't think of a landscape, which is far more complex, as needing a plan. Yet, that is what is at the heart of so many of the problems we face.
So, we say, work out the different land management units. They could be river systems, they could be bush systems, grazing areas, crops. Horticulture on clay would be managed differently than pasture. The fertiliser regime may change, etc. Finally, with the land management units, our final overlay becomes the proposed changes. Division, the thing that is going to inspire you. As I said, you stick it on the back of the dunny door and every day you sit and look at it and say, "Yep, I love that." It becomes the blueprint for how you want the property to look in the future. We always encourage them to think, firstly, along the lines of environmental improvement, for example, arresting degradation, solving weed problems, salinity and erosion problems. And then, how can it be reversed? That is the wonderful, wonderful thing about land care. Why we know we will succeed is that we know it makes sense. It doesn't make sense to destroy your capital base, which is what we are doing when we degrade the land.
It makes sense to arrest the decline and then put in place systems that not only protect the environment but actually improve the productivity of that farming enterprise. So much of land care is about demonstrating time and again that it is not just environmental management, but actually economic management, sound economic management.
We would look at productivity, always looking at how we can make that landscape more productive. If you are sitting on half an acre, productivity may mean you have a better veggie garden because you have worked out the pH, you know what additives to put into the soil. If you are a beef farmer, then it is working out shelter belts which are improving the environment and are going to improve the productivity of your stock.
Then we would look at aesthetics. A friend at Men of the Trees said, "Every farm should be like our garden." In other words, we should not just think of a farm where we have a nice garden around the house; we should create an environment where it is beautiful everywhere we go. Every human being like to be stimulated and inspired by beautiful environments. That is why we all flock to national parks or beautiful recreational areas. We should integrate that into wherever we are living.
Finally, of course, the real estate value. I know with the land care work I have done on my farm in the last ten years has improved the value of my farm by about $150,000. A valuer came out and gave us that figure. We had a gentleman in our course on Wednesday night. He had done five years of land care and it had improved his landscape by $100,000. It is obvious. Who wants to buy a piece of land that looks like that? It is literally a real estate liability. It has no productive value, it is an eye sore, people are not going to pay big money for that.
So, we begin to say you have to weave all of these things into that landscape, into your design so that you can create something that works for you. Every person's plan is different. You wouldn't say, "This is what you should do on your landscape." You would say, "Well, looking at what you want to do on your landscape, this is the sort of direction, these would become your parameters, the guiding beacons, if you like. If you are working toward creating and maximising that on your landscape, you are always going to be winning.
That gets us to the point where we have that wonderful vision. The blueprint for what we want our farm to look like in the future. Then we would say, it is one thing to have a plan, but how do you go about implementing it, how does it become something that is realistic in terms of an on-going program of implementation. We would ask them to come up with a priority strategy for implementation. These are all wordy sort of things. Ultimately, we say to them, how many years do you think it is going to take to implement this plan. For most people it is usually from one to ten years, depending on how much money. If we had Janet Holmes a'Court, she would be able to do it in six months. Remember, a lot of people are either working on the farm six days a week, or they are working in the city, and they get out there just one day a week. Either way time and often money are limiting factors. (end of tape)