All About Site Planning
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.
1 pm 13 April AgWest Chris Ferreira “All about Site Planning”
(the first part of the talk is not recorded)
...that sort of thing. I think that is where a lot of it is going to have to come in the future....
...It's an initiative that is really encouraging and hopefully will be seen as a model that can be replicated around Australia and hopefully, the world. The Landcare model, if you like, has been shown to be quite intriguing on the world stage. There are countries that have come to have a look at the landcare model in Australia because it has been so successful, and often it has been successful despite what we would say government inertia has done to inadvertently stymie that movement. A lot of it has been farmer-based, and that makes it very exciting for countries, particularly those who may be third-world, or which may not have the funds necessary from government to give the top-down injection of funds that is required. It is a very exciting initiative.
If we summarize again, one of the farm-planning ideals is to transform something like that so that we can create a farm plan, and then ultimately see whoever has that land implement that property plan. That is one of the great initiatives that farm planning and landcare is trying to achieve. As I said, with my analogy at the beginning, we may look at a wonderful vision such as this as a recipe. That recipe picture may be of a beautiful lasagna or roast chicken, whatever, and we want that. That is what we really have a vision and focus for. We then need to come up with the actual recipe, the details of how you can create that wonderful recipe, or that blueprint. That is what I will talk a little bit about now.
When we talk and work with a farmer, and I stress that the farm can be half an acre, or one hundred thousand acres. The principles of sustainable land management and land care are exactly the same, no matter how big or small the piece of land is. That is the beauty of the system. It can be adapted and evolved and changed to meet the circumstances. But we would work with the land holder, and ultimately we would ask them to come up with the farm plan. That process, which I talked a little bit about before the break, was: 1. give them the opportunity to see their land from the air, to create for them, if you like, an opportunity to see the aerial photo. And that is one of the fundamental tools for this whole farm planning process. Some people say they can't afford an aerial photo. We still encourage them to look at their farm from an aerial perspective. As we said, that's the big picture. It allows them to see their farm and the context in which they are working.
We would start with the aerial photo and get them to do things like draw in the boundaries, the infrastructure, and that may be buildings, roads, sheds. Then we would ask them to look at things like the fences. What you will start to see is that the penny will start to drop. They will start to say, "Why the hell is that fence there?" about a fence that runs across two blatantly, obviously different types of landforms. Therefore they are struggling to be able to see the justification for that fence. Through this process, you are starting to lift their consciousness, their awareness as how what they have on that landscape fits with the natural features. So we ask them to put in these things first, and perhaps some of the hazards.
And then we say to them, we ask them to put the north point on the landscape, and they look at you a bit miffed as if they are wondering why you would be worried about where the north point is. Does everyone know why we would try to work out where north is on this plan? What is the benefit?
For a start, the sun. We know that in the southern hemisphere the sun is always in the north of the sky. In the wintertime it is quite low in the landscape and in the summer it is quite high, about 85%. That is going to make a big difference as to what impact the sun makes on that landscape over those different times of the year. For instance we ask them, if this was your paddock, and we always do it from an aerial perspective, trying to get them to look from the air once again, because it offers such a better form of planning. We would say, for instance, if that is to the north, and you put in a lovely big row of Blue Gums, Eucalyptus globulus, on that landscape, what is going to happen in that paddock in the winter time? And they will start to think about it and they will realise they are going to get a lot of shading, because the sun is so much lower in the sky. You start to introduce the concept of design. You start to say to them, if you are going to look after your landscape, if you are going to spend money on the landscape, doesn't it make sense to make sure that every cent you put onto that landscape is going to have the maximum benefit and the minimum negative impact. And you start to reinforce that just by showing these different things.
North point also helps to orientate the farm according to things like the prevailing winds. Every area is going to be different, but every area will suffer the effects of prevailing winds. I believe it is one of the great, understated, negative impacts on the landscape. We start to encourage them to work out where the various winds are coming from on their landscape. Once again, it is one of those factors that they can't control: they can't control the fact that the wind is coming onto their private piece of property, but it is ultimately something that they need to take control of in the sense that they need to design for it.
We would say to them, where are the hot, dry winds coming from? Most of the people in the Swan coastal plain, say, "Oh, God, the east!" Here in WA, the easterlies are the extremely hot, dry winds. If this is a cross-section of the landscape, and there is the Indian Ocean, this is our Darling range, and for us on the Swan coastal plain, and this is Perth, the wind just fairly rips down there. It's hot and dry in the summer time; it is a dessicating effect on the landscape. In the winter time it is just as strong, but it is very cold, coming off a huge landmass with a very strong, debilitating effect on the landscape. We start to encourage them to think of the wind at different times of the year and of the impact on the landscape.
And it is important to stress, it will change wherever you are. The beauty of this program is that you can manipulate it to suit wherever you are. For us, in WA, it also brings to us the threat of fire. You start to say to them, you need to consider this impact. For many people, they have no understanding of the threat of fire. We will generally say, there are some countries in the world that live on faults in the landscape, so therefore they accept that every now and then there is going to be tremors, big or small, and that will have an impact on that city. Then we say to them, we have exactly the same sort of threat hanging over our heads in WA. It is not because we sit on an unstable place in the landscape, but because we have the threat of fire. One way or another, your landscape will threatened by fire. It may be a small fire, it may be a very big one. Many people really have not considered that living in that landscape, away from suburbia, they put themselves at risk from the threat of fire. We say to them, sooner or later, fire will threaten your property. You can choose to ignore it as a threat, and therefore not be prepared. Or you can choose minimize its impact by putting in design. For a start you start getting them to think about the threat of fire. This is generally the arc that is generally going to bring the threat of fire because it is the hot, dry winds that are going to fan the fire.
Then we would look at things like the cold winds. For us in WA the cold winds, in terms of cold fronts, come from the north west. In the winter time, these are the really cold winds with a windchill factor that can cause a lot of mortality in lambs, etc., so, once again, it can have a big and powerful impact.
And then we have the cool breezes in summer, which are generally from the south west. I am speaking from the perspective of the Swan coastal plains. So we start to encourage people to look at their landscape in that regard and put all of these different things on the landscape.
Then, what we would generally start to do is encourage people to look at the soil. We generally start by saying, "Did you know that soil is sexy?" And they all laugh and giggle a bit. We say that it is very important that you recognise that to be a good land manager you have to know your soil. The more you know about your soil, the more that you will be able to manage that land sustainably. We stress that fundamentally, because so many people who are managing the land know so little about their soil. That is reflected in all aspects of society. I dream of the day when the news will have a soil index: not the price of oil or the price of gold, but how well the soil index is doing in Australia. Have we lost soil through erosion, is the salinity meter high? In other words, we should be seeing soil as a national asset that everyone should be concerned about.
We start to encourage them to think that one of the most important things they can do to improve the landscape is, firstly, understand their soil. And we start to get them to look at the different soil types. We basically would get them to have a look at sand, loam, clay and gravel, which are the four broad types. We don't need to become soil scientists to work out the soil. What we would do is have examples of those different soils and we would say for each of them that we need to know the characteristics.
What we would do is take them out into the field. We would have bucket samples and we would say, right, grab a sample in your hand, a ball, wet it, and what does it do? What does it do in your hand. By just getting that soil in your hand and wetting it, you begin to be able to understand the characteristics of that soil. So we would say, OK, what happens if you wet a ball of sand in your hand and you squeeze it very tight and release the pressure, what does the sand do? They will say that it crumbles. And we say, what does that tell you about the characteristics of that sand? They will say that it probably means it won't be prone to compaction. We can say to them that it is made up of relatively large particles that have little charge; when you push them together, they will fall apart. There is nothing in that soil to help them hold on to the nutrients. And so we can say to them, this is why the Swan coastal plain looks like this in so many cases: there is nothing in it, it is a hydroponic medium, basically. It anchors the roots and that is about it. In the worst case scenario we call it the gutless sand, the silver loam, and we try to encourage them to see one of the characteristics of that sand is that there is little charge in that soil. As a result of that, little ability to hold on to water and nutrients, and as a result of that, we can start to look at the limiting factors.
So, we would say to them, if we have our sand, and we know it has little charge, and we would say that it is well-drained. Drawing that out, what does that tell us about sandy soil? They would say it probably means it would have low fertility, because it is not going to hold on to water and nutrients. And, basically, it is going to be prone to drought. We would say, if that is the case, what happens when it stops raining? For us in WA, when does it stop raining? They will think about it and say, Septemberish, October. We will say, that's right, and after that is there any residual moisture in the soil? They will say no. And we will say, that is one of the most important limiting factors. In other words, if you don't recognize that, and you are running 30 head of Dexter cattle, or the prize pony for the daughter, if you don't recognize that soil is going to have limited productivity for seven months of the year, if you don't take account of that, you are going to get erosion and degradation. The landscape, if you like, is shutting down over those months in that sandy soil.
You can begin to get them to start thinking about the different characteristics of those soils. Then we would start saying to them for each of the different soil types, we would say, strategies for improvement. Because everything about these courses is about informing and then inspiring and educating. I see absolutely no point in just saturating with gloom and doom. You have to be able to use that as a medium to bring about understanding. Say, OK, those are the problems that we face and here is how to go about improving it so we can create a more productive, sustainable, beautiful and ultimately more valuable landscape. We would say, for instance, that the strategies for improvement, regardless of the soil type, are biological, chemical, and mechanical ways to improve that landscape.
That gives them three headings. Then what we would say is that those strategies are going to change on the soil type and the conditions in which you find yourself. An example of mechanical improvement would be .... If you have compacted soil, through this process, we would work through the characteristics. For instance, if you have animals or machinery, you will probably get compaction on your landscape. We would say to them, why is compaction a problem? Because it means the roots of those trees are not going to be able to get down into the water supply. That is critically important for our sandy soils because if our plants are going to survive, they have to get their roots down to the independent water supply, unless, of course, we are doing irrigation. Either way, breaking that soil open through a judicious process of ripping is going to allow the roots and the water to get down into the soil. We would be encouraging them to look at their own soil, work out its limiting factors and then apply the appropriate mechanical, biological or chemical improvements. So, ripping would be an example of certain processes, and we would explain and show them. We would look at mounding: if it is a waterlogged soil, when would that be important?
Then we would have a look at some of the biological improvements. We would ultimately look at the fact that, traditionally, our soils are healthy, self-sustaining systems. We would try and encourage them to see that it is only in the last 50 to 60 years, since the second world war, that we have really been conditioned to think the only way we can get productivity is to artificially stimulate growth through the use of artificial fertilisers. We would say, until then, how did farmers produce crops to sustain life? They would say farmers probably used manures. We say, that's right, you would build up the soil fertility naturally. You would use a whole range of systems to keep that fertility going.
We would say that the two hundred years of agriculture have basically snuffed out so much of that biological life. Imagine I am looking at a cross-section of natural soil: it would have been a balance of the soil itself, teeming with life with the micro and macro biota, and moisture and air. Two hundred years of farming has basically compacted that soil and washed a lot of it off, of course. We would explain what happens when you compact the soil: it means you are no longer getting the water into the soil, you are no longer getting the oxygen into the soil. Therefore, if you don't have oxygen and water, how can things live in that soil? So you begin to show them that we have inherited a soil that has been so badly neglected and it has lost its ability to sustain itself in so many ways. We use the analogy of someone on a life-support system, the only reason that person is still alive is that we are artificially pumping them with water and nutrients and removing wastes. Switch off the switch, and what happens to that person. They are going to die.
That may sound very melodramatic, but that is exactly what is happening with most of our farmland. And the farms that they have inherited, if they have just bought that farm, if we don't continually supply chemicals, fertilisers, pesticides, etc., that landscape can no longer produce for us in the sense that we are used to.
It can be quite confrontational, particularly for farmers who have done it that way for many years and think that is the best way to look after the land. It is very challenging for them to see that. I guess the important thing is that first comes awareness, then hopefully, acceptance, and then the process of change can begin.
So, we would look at biological things. Number one, you have to understand your soil, and we would start looking at soil testing. We would say, does everyone know what pH is? Why is pH important? Plants like to live between 6.5 and 7 pH. We would say, why is that so important? Most people don't know why. We use the analogy that if plants aren't living in that narrow corridor of pH in the scale of 1 to 14, it is a little bit like you going to the supermarket, trying to do your weekly shopping, and most of the aisles are closed off. How can you get all the foods you need to sustain you and your family, if most of the aisles are cut off. That is basically what it is like for a plant living in an environment that is above or below. The more extreme it is, the more difficult it is for plants to live.
So, often, people come to a farm planning course with a particular grudge. They might say, for example, my Blue gums are getting eaten out by white ants. That's a typical thing. Or, I'm having trouble with aphids on my plants, or my fruits are not growing big enough. You would say, very simplistically, that it is very difficult for a plant living outside of that preferred corridor of growth, it is ultimately not going to be that healthy. If it is not very healthy, how can it be effectively able to repel insects, pests, disease, etc? Once again they begin to see that it is not just what spray they can use to control that problem, but so much comes back to the health of the soil. If we have healthy soil, just like a human being that has a healthy diet, we will be able to keep ourselves healthy and repel the range of pathogens that are floating around waiting to give us a hard time.
We say to them it is very, very important to look at the landscape, and we would talk to them about compaction. We would bring a soil probe, and we would just demonstrate. It is really just a glorified steel stake, and we would just put it into the soil. You can get fancy ones that give you a pressure reading, but we just use a metal probe and we say, how far can you push that into the land. Even on a lawn, people will struggle to get it in very far. We ask, what does that mean for the plant roots, tiny roots that have nowhere near the pressure to exert that you do, how can they push their roots through that system? They begin to see that it is going to make a big impact.
And we would look at water repellency, particularly for the sandy soil. That is one of the major problems they encounter, particularly on the Swan coastal plain, where we have a lot of sandy soil. They will say, yeah, the water doesn't go into the soil. We would explain that, once again, it is a biological process. The waxes breaking down through the breakdown of leaves coat the grains of sand, and make it difficult for water to get through that soil. We would explain that that is one of the limiting factors. Each of the particular problems that we would isolate or identify, we can then come up with biological and/or chemical or mechanical way to improve that situation.
So they can begin, if you like, to formulate a recipe that works for their environment. Some of the biological improvements we stress as much as we possibly can the need to biologically improve that landscape. For the broad scale farmers it is a little bit more tricky, because they are essentially locked into this system. We would encourage them to at least begin to experiment on a smaller component of their landscape with some of the organic methods that are available. Recognising that it takes time to shift a big system that may have been in place for over a hundred years. You can't just change that overnight. With new people coming onto landscapes, they are often very excited and completely open to biological management of the landscape. In many cases they come with a real passion for biological improvement. They don't want to use chemicals. That is one of the reasons why they bought their land.
Q. What can broadacre farmers use to put their soil back in order?
A. If we start with the sand, we would say some of the broad scale amendments we could use include alkaloam (sp?). It just depends what they are trying to do. Alkaloam is a waste product from the production of aluminium in this state. Alcoa mines bauxite from our hills, they remove the aluminium ore. What is left is basically clay particles, highly charged particles, and when we add them to the sand impart more of the characteristics of the clay. In other words, it can hold on to water and nutrients. It gives that sand the ability to hold on to the potential for growth and build it up. You have to start with a base, on a smaller environment. For instance, if we were doing broad scale planting of trees on sandy soil, we would recommend using something like bentonite, zeolite and gypsum, in about 100 grams per square metre. Bentonite is a white clay that expands with water, has the ability to hold onto water and nutrients. Zeolite increases the cationic exchange capacity of the soil, in other words, its ability to hold on to and exchange nutrients. In other words, giving it the building blocks for life. If we look at that sandy soil again, there is just nothing there. it is bleached of life because it doesn't have the ability to hold on to anything.
So we talk to them about building a base. That is very important, particularly if we look at the context of this program which came about because so many of the nutrients we add, directly or indirectly into the soil, are not staying there. They are going down into the water, across the surface or into the groundwater, and causing the nitrogen, phosphate, etc., to end up in the rivers and feed the algaes. We say there is an environmental imperative but also a biological productivity improvement. If we can build up that base of that soil, that is going to help. So we would talk about some of those broad scale amendments, we would look at the bentonite, zeolite and gypsum which are naturally occurring compounds. This gives them a biological alternative.
A chemical amendment would be something like fly ash, another industrial waste product. Fly ash is produced from the burning of coal. Again, it has highly-charged particles. Mixing it into the sand gives the sand the ability to hold on to water and nutrients.
And then we would talk about things like compost. We would explain the difference between manures and compost. Most people will say that compost is a great thing to add. We would say that manure is a raw product which needs to be fed upon by the various organism in the soil such as bacteria, worms, to then become compost, which is readily-available plant food. So we would explain that manures are fine, but they don't give an instant effect. You need to actually work with them through biological processes. You can do that either with composting or allow it to be on the landscape long enough to actually help build that soil up. We would say, as much as possible, that composts are a very important mechanism that we can use, and we would cite some of the companies that are actually doing broad scale composting. There are a couple of companies now that are taking sewerage and mushroom waste, piggery waste, etc., and turning it into organic additives that we can put even on a broad scale on our farm scapes. We always keep in mind that we want to use the water and the nutrients where they fall. That becomes one of the cornerstones of this whole program.
We would work through each of the soil types with that. We would start to get them to look at what soil types they have. Once again, working out these limiting factors and how we would improve them. We would look at the biological, chemical and mechanical. For each of them we would give very good examples. Briefly, with the clay we would look at biological improvements such as gypsum, calcium sulfate, to help break that soil up. We would talk about how biological additives such as composts, straws, can make a huge difference to improve our clay's structure and its fertility.
We would talk about the wonderful process of soil testing. Maybe 5 % would have done a pH test but virtually no one would have done a soil test. We would ask them why a soil test was important. We would explain that a soil test is a little bit like when you go to the doctor, you have not been well for a while. If the doctor doesn't know what the problem is, he would take a blood test, do some form of a test to try to find out what is going on. Always trying to draw it back to some kind of relevant experience they would be able to accept and understand.
The real key with the soil test is that it is going to tell us about a whole range of nutrients that the soil should have for plant growth. What do you have in your soil? What is the ideal for each of those nutrients? What do you need to do to improve them? We will tell them that a soil test looks at all those things and will give them the options there are. The MacDonalds of soil testing is like the CSBP soil testing kit which looks at some of the broad macronutrients for plant growth. It doesn't go into great detail. And, being a fertiliser company, they would recommend, surprise, surprise, the use of more superphosphate, etc. But we would say that is still better than nothing, because you are definitely targeting and being more specific with your fertiliser program.
Some of these examples are in the Albany region. They did some soil testing. They had problems with pollution entering into the oyster harvest. They started to work with the farmers in the catchment above that to find out how their fertiliser program was impacting on the oyster harbour. When they did soil tests on a broad scale, a massive soil testing program, they found that 60% of those farmers did not need to use super for the next three to five years. Now those farmers were religiously putting on the old bag to the acre of super every year because dad had always done it, granddad before him had. What they didn't know was that their clay and loam soils were actually locking on to that super, creating a huge super bank. In other words, there was a big supply of phosphorus in the soil, most of which the plants couldn't access. What they needed wasn't more superphosphate, but a much cheaper alternative such as lime, some gypsum, to improve the pH to the point that the phosphorus could be released and be made available to the plants. It was a graphic illustration of how soil testing is not only showing them that they were going in the wrong direction, but that going in the right direction would actually save some money. They don't necessarily have to fertilise each year. That was the old win/win because they were using less money, there was less runoff, hence less pollution entering into the oyster harbour.
Hopefully, they begin to see that soil testing is a really, really important program. They ask to what depth they should soil test and we say that what they see on the surface of their soil isn't necessarily what it is like underground, and we explain the concept of the different horizons. There is top soil, then the A horizon below that, and we may even have what is called a duplex soil. We may have sand over clay, or sand over gravel, two very different soils. If they start to look at the characteristics, they will know that sand over clay is going to be a very difficult soil to manage if they only think about the sand on the surface. Often people say they put trees into the landscape and they died after only twelve months. We ask if they have duplex soil, and they say they have gravel or clay at depth. If they weren't breaking into that compacted layer with ripping, those plant will get stuck in a sand medium and can't break through. The sand dries out over the summer and the plants dessicate and die. Or, they were choosing plants for sand, but actually they should have chosen plants for the clay. The plants are going to spend 99% of their lives here, not there, so you choose plants for the sub soil in a duplex soil environment.
So, you start to get them to understand that firstly, they need to do a soil test, done according to the different soil profiles that you find. We would draw that back to the aerial photo. You may have a soil testing program each year to a paddock. You may decide that you will do this paddock this year. You would do the soil testing according to a pattern within one particular soil type. You certainly wouldn't put two or three soils into the one sample. We recommend to them that they should take as many representative sample of that one soil type as possible. We would say that the results that you get are only as good as the actual testing program that you use. We use the analogy of a Morgan and Gallop poll to find out how many of us are voting Liberal or Labor, Greens or Democrat. They haven't sampled every single Australian. What they have done is a precise sampling program that gives them a representative sample of the Australian population. They can extrapolate that and make predictions. As a generalization, that is how we are thinking, and that is the same with the soil test. We strongly suggest soil testing and integrating that into your program.
Q. A duplex soil may have a pH of 8 in the sand layer, and a pH of 5 in the clay layer. Can a plant sort of average that out--how do they cope? And what can we do about it?
A. That is an excellent question. My partner talks about where he went to do a farm plan for a guy who found on the aerial photo of his farm, that there was sort of a line. Everything grew really well on one side, and on the other side, things just died. What Pete found when they did the soil testing was that pH was about 5 or 6 on one side, and about 9 down here. In those extremes, if we were looking at tree planting, we would be bringing in the ripper, sitting behind the back of a big dozer, to break up the compacted layer. We would recommend that they rip as much as they can to a depth of about a metre. Then we would try to incorporate into that soil, agents that will help to improve the pH, if that is the problem that they found. It is difficult if it is 60 to 70 cm down. One thing you can do is try and add something. In this instance we looked at adding gypsum into that soil, because it would help with the soil structure. And we added some elemental sulfur into that to bring the pH down again. Secondly, at least when you know it is there, you can start to choose species that will be tolerant of those conditions.
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 landcare. 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 landcare 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 landcare 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 landcare 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)