19 July 2021

Astronomical agriculture project plants the seed for budding young farmers

| Hannah Sparks
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Crookwell Public students by vege boxes

Crookwell Public School students learn about planting fruit and vegetables during the lunar phases. Photo: Jo Marshall.

UPDATE 19 July: This event has been postponed until October due to COVID-19. Dates TBC.

What is astronomical agriculture and how does the lunar cycle influence what we grow on farms?

These are just two of the big questions children in the Canberra region will explore at the future site of the Australian Agricultural Centre (AAC) during National Science Week 2021.

“The Australian Agricultural Centre is about engaging the next generation of agriculturalists, so we thought we’d get people out to a rural area and throw in a bit of science by talking about lunar planting,” said AAC founder Jo Marshall.

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Between 6-29 August, school groups and the public are invited to stay overnight in a yurt at AAC’s demonstration farm between Goulburn and Crookwell, to explore the skies by night and paddocks by day.

“Everyone will learn about planting around the lunar cycle, native foods and pastures, and astronomy,” said Ms Marshall.

Dinner will be served by a bonfire and telescopes will be provided for stargazing.

During the day, visitors will learn about pastures and hear about the research the AAC has done with planting crops around the moon phases.

AAC demonstration farm

The Australian Agricultural Centre’s demonstration farm at Crookwell. Photo: Jo Marshall.

School groups are invited to stay between Monday and Thursday, while the public can stay on Friday or Saturday.

Ms Marshall said the project was funded by the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal and the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources.

“This is about widening people’s scope of what agriculture is all about,” she said.

“There’s a lot of science and technology involved in agriculture. It’s not as simple as sticking a crop in the paddock or putting sheep on grass. And astronomical agriculture is different and exciting.”

Researching the lunar phase

The AAC has been working with students at Crookwell Public School to see if planting fruit and vegetables in line with the lunar cycle has any benefits.

“The kids planted fruit and vegetables in Vegepods according to the lunar cycle and then every day to see if there were any differences. We’ll reveal what we found out during National Science Week,” said Ms Marshall.

The ‘Questacon of agriculture’

Ms Marshall, a former farmer and councillor, started the AAC to help entice the next generation into agriculture and show consumers where their food and fibre comes from.

The $38 million project, dubbed the ‘Questacon of agriculture’, will provide people with a place to learn about farming.

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Ms Marshall is awaiting funding to build the centre and believes the AAC will attract 80,504 school students and tourists each year.

She has already secured funding to renovate the existing shearing quarters at the chosen site into accommodation for people visiting the centre.

This should be completed by the end of the year.

Potato beer

Ms Marshall has also added a Brewdome to the initial AAC plans.

The Brewdome will be located next to the centre on the existing Crookwell 1 Wind Farm viewing platform and will demonstrate how carbon dioxide from the beer can help crops to grow and how water from the crops can be fed back into the brewery.

Ms Marshall hopes to manufacture a local beer inside the Brewdome and has ideas for a beer made from potatoes grown in Crookwell.

People will be able to see the process and enjoy a beer on the Brewdome’s viewing deck which will overlook the wind farm.

To find out more about National Science Week and the AAC, visit www.australianagriculturalcentre.com.

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