Biofarming Conference Changing Minds

Kathryn Dryden
November 24, 2016

Biofarming Conference Changing Minds

Future generations of farmers on the field tours – This young farming family is from Tasmania.  

 

Supported by funding from the Australian Government's National Landcare Program.

Wet Tropics Soilcare Inc convened the National Biological Farming Conference in Cairns last month, which has changed attitudes and inspired farmers from all around Australia and parts of the world to better understand soil health to improve productivity and a healthy environment.

 

With exceptional attendance from international, national and local farmers, along with government and industry delegates, very high accolades were received.

Terrain’s Regional Landcare Facilitator Fiona George was responsible for coordinating the conference. She said, “The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and we are so excited to be making a difference to farmers and their practices.”

Inspiring the crowd of nearly 500 delegates, 50 high-calibre speakers presented their knowledge and expertise. The presenters were farmers, researchers, advisors and educators from a range of industries and biological farming systems from parts of Australia, USA and NZ. Twelve sponsors contributed $140,000 to the event and 40 trade exhibitors used the opportunity to show their products and services to delegates from all states and territories of Australia; New Zealand; Malaysia; Singapore; USA and UK. $50,000 of this was a grant awarded by the Australian Government.

Sixty of the 130 attendees who provided feedback said their attitudes to farming had changed as a result of the conference which was rated very highly as a learning experience. Almost 100 said they had enough information and confidence to go ahead to make changes with just over half-a-dozen saying they weren’t sure how to get started.

Ms George said, “We have grown our network as a result of this conference and we look forward to facilitating further support to farmers to build their understanding, change attitudes and make improvements to their farming operations.”

The Wet Tropics Soilcare group was born in recent years out of a handful of farmers who are passionate about soil. They were driven by Terrain’s ‘Digging Deeper’ program which qualified them as "soil psychologists", learning about their soil's "issues". The group meets regularly, actively rolling out opportunities for farmers to learn more about how to improve soil health and make their farming operations more profitable.

Wet Tropics Soilcare's Chair and a Mareeba lychee farmer, Mal Everett, said, “Our group has a very broad range of members, some conventional and many looking for new ways to improve the way they farm. We seized the opportunity to hold this conference in the north as a great way to inspire and motivate our farming community. Understanding and managing the health of our soils is crucial to our enterprises and to the longevity of agriculture in the region.”

Mr Everett said about the event, “People told us they got most out of the great mix of speakers, particularly our keynote speaker from the USA, Gabe Brown, and his practical approach. The easy atmosphere for sharing and networking was also a highlight that we are proud to have shared.”

Due to the popularity of the event, Wet Tropics Soilcare plans to continue to support the conference and expo as an annual event at locations around Australia, and anticipates a further growth of interest in from farmers and industry alike in learning about soil health and its benefits.

For information, contact Fiona George 0488 702 203 or fiona.george@terrain.org.au Follow the National Biological Farming Conference on Facebook for videos of the keynote speakers’ presentations at the 2016 Cairns event, along with inspiring news and event information.

Some of the feedback:

“Thank you for organising an amazing conference. I found it both empowering and (hopefully) life changing.” Robert Holdaway, Landcare Research, NZ

“What an amazing conference! It was a game changer for our farm really. I thought I knew some of the stuff but learned a heap more and was inspired in new ways, which cemented some serious action/planning toward getting biological farming normal/main practice on our place.” Peter Salleras, East Feluga.

“Again very well organised conference of massive benefit for the industry.” Clemens Gschwandtner, Brand, Advertising & Campaign Specialist, Bayer Crop Science 

“The knowledge I gained will assist me to use my entire farm to build a profitable farming enterprise for my family into the future. I just can’t thank you enough.” Geoff Bugden, pecan farmer, northern NSW.

“I want to thank you for inviting me to the conference.  I really, really enjoyed it!  It was one of the better conferences I have attended.  I could tell that you had spent a lot of time planning and preparing for it.  I also want to thank you for how well you hosted me as a speaker.  From picking me up at the airport, to the hotel accommodations, to the meals, it was all first class and I SINCERELY appreciated it!” Gabe Brown, Bismarck, North Dakota

"You pulled off a fantastic event that every single person who attended could not stop raving about!” Richelle Miles, banana farmer, Mission Beach