Thirty land managers from the United States got a taste for how Australians are successfully combining conservation and agriculture when they visited the award-winning Land for Wildlife property Fairholt near Crookwell.
Centre for Large Landscape Conservation president Dr Gary Tabor is part of the American delegation, and says growing crops and growing conservation is the way of the future.
“Big fire, big flood, big heat! We see Australia as an analogue to what we’re facing in the western United States,” he said.
“We want to know what you folks are doing with regards to land stewardship, and both using Western science and traditional knowledge to figure out how to deal with these challenging problems.”
Coordinated by the Great Eastern Ranges (GER) and the Kanangra-Boyd to Wyangala Inc (K2W), the Fairholt field day was part of a month-long exchange program, with an international delegation from the Global Landscape Stewardship Network joining local farming and conservation champions including representatives from the Southern Tablelands chapters of Land for Wildlife, Landcare and Soils for Life.
Property owner Garry Kadwell is a fourth-generation farmer and a leader in integrating nature conservation into agricultural planning and farm management.
He has a deep personal connection to the land and has enacted land stewardship practices that recognise and respect what the landscape has provided to him and his family.
The highly productive property produces Australian-certified seed potatoes and prime lambs while operating as a leading sustainable farm. Garry has integrated conservation into his property management and 32 per cent of the 700-hectare property is dedicated to conservation areas or ecological zones.
Garry has increased productivity across the whole farm, producing on average 2000 tonnes of seed potato and 1800 prime lambs.
His innovative practices include dramatically reducing the need for chemical applications through integrated pest management, securing a consistent water supply by recreating an extensive natural wetland, and fencing off remnants, adding shelter belts and reconnecting habitat.
This has helped moderate extreme weather events on crops and livestock and greatly enhanced the biodiversity and social values of the property.
Dr Tabo says what Garry is doing is “absolutely inspiring”.
“This is the message we have to get, that ag and conservation can work together,” he added.
“You can grow crops and you can also grow conservation and you can do it at the same time and it adds value both for the farmer and for societies and communities as a whole.
“This is the future, this is how we are going to be able to save our planet and provide for our livelihoods.”
Travis Anklam, from the University of Montana, coordinated the tour of regional communities and rural properties across the eastern parts of Australia, with the aim of learning and sharing ideas.
“Garry speaks about why he’s caring for this country and this land, and these waters, and that it’s still being done in a way where you can be a viable farm,” he said.
“He’s making a living off of this landscape while still caring for it in ways that leave it better than how he found it when he was a young person.
“If we can bring people into a closer connection with the land and help those folks really build a relationship with it and each other around those landscapes, I think we are going to be able to care for our landscapes in a greater way, because we have recognised how it is sustaining us.”
Garry and Travis represent a growing number of concerned community members and farmers taking up the challenges of extreme weather and changing environmental conditions that are affecting both continents.
K2W Inc supports wildlife conservation in a natural highway following the line of the Abercrombie River between the Blue Mountains and Wyangala.