12 December 2023

Inspired Bookham farmers honoured for turning harsh treeless landscape into thriving green treasure

| Sally Hopman
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Four people in paddock, with man holding award

Bookham farmers Gary and Hansie Armour (left) are presented with the Yass Area Landcare Network’s JCH Betts Award for the environment by Mary-Jane and Nan Betts. Photos: Ian McGrath/Murray Prior.

Bookham farmers Gary and Hansie Armour have won the 2023 JCH Betts Memorial Landcare Award for the transformation of their property, Te-Kooti.

The Armours received the award, presented by the Yass Area Landcare Network of Landcare Groups (YAN), for their commitment to environmental restoration after taking over the family property in 2001 during the drought.

The award honours John Betts, a foundation member of YAN, who made a major contribution over many years to Landcare in the Yass region.

“John [Betts] would have loved seeing Gary and Hansie’s property today, he was a great advocate for protecting our environment, land and water,” his wife Nan said. “Gary will no doubt inspire others for what is achievable.”

Daughter Mary-Jane said: “We are thrilled to present the John Betts Memorial Landcare Award to Gary and Hansie.

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“Gary’s had amazing results over many years of enhancing Te-Kooti with his handy ability to repurpose old tools. Seeing Gary demonstrate his homemade tree seeder and achieving many kilometres of tree lines is fantastic.”

The award recognises the two decades of work Gary and Hansie have put into the property. Encountering a harsh, treeless landscape, they knew something had to be done to maintain the viability of their grazing operations and to enhance the farm’s environment.

The couple worked with local groups promoting landscape revegetation, including on projects such as “Webs of Burrinjuck”, which encouraged landowners to establish tree lanes connecting Childowla Road with existing habitat pockets on their property.

Gary said he was inspired by his mentors, Landcare stalwarts Leon Garry and John Betts, using a converted plough to directly seed trees, adding that he was humbled to receive the award.

People watching tractor mow a line for direct seeding

Bookham farmer Gary Armour shows how he can direct seed trees in lines on his property near Yass.

“John Betts was such a role model for me, and I like nothing more than watching my soils improve,” Gary said.

Using the direct-seeding method rather than the more labour-intensive tube stock planting proved a success early on, with Gary, using a converted plough, managing to sow a one-kilometre stretch across five rows of trees in a day. With this method, he has since established 20 kilometres of multi-row tree lanes over the 1000-hectare property.

“It has been wonderful to see the results achieved by Gary’s dedication,” Hansie said. “In our business model, the soil comes first by using our sheep as a tool in the process; birds and wildlife return. The cream on the cake for us is that it also improves our bottom line.”

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The Yass Area Landcare Network consists of five groups across the Yass Valley: Bowning Bookham Landcare Group; Murrumbateman Landcare Group; Sutton Landcare Group; Yass Landcare Group; and The Friends of Yass Gorge.

“We proudly honour Gary and Hansie Armour for their visionary stewardship, innovative practices and unparalleled commitment to environmental sustainability,” a YAN spokesperson said.

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