Network of Soil Health Coaches Planned

PEER NETWORK TO SUPPORT FARMERS IN SOIL HEALTH

26 AUGUST 2020

Interest in soil health-based farming is continuing to grow in the Wet Tropics and farmers who have adopted this approach are putting their hands up to help others by becoming ‘soil health coaches’.

Terrain NRM’s Fiona George said that when she initiated the first soil health ‘Digging Deeper’ program in 2014, it was met with skepticism by some farmers. But as landholders benefit from learning about soil health and as interest grows, focus on soil health practices is becoming more mainstream.

“Quite a few people thought we were selling ‘snake oil’ at first,” she said. “With soil being your number one asset in a farm business, after your people, it makes absolute sense to ensure it is as healthy and productive as possible.

“More than 100 farmers have now taken advantage of Terrain’s Digging Deeper course, and other soil health workshops, groups and forums such as Wet Tropics Soilcare and the Regen Cane Network have started as interest across the region increases.

“The Wet Tropics is one of the regions leading the way on soil health in Australia.”

Some of the benefits of regenerative farming, or soil-based farming, include healthier crops and better productivity. It also has environmental benefits including fewer nutrients leaching into water ways, less runoff from the paddock and lower carbon emissions.

Soil expert David Hardwick, from Soil Land Food, has been one of the key facilitators of soil health workshops across the region. Mr Hardwick said several farmers had emerged as champions for soil health-based farming over the last five to six years and they were keen to help other farmers learn more.

“We know that one of the best ways to support farmers through change is for other farmers who’ve already done it to help them, so we saw this as an opportunity to accelerate the awareness and adoption of soil health-based farming,’’ he said.

“Initially we planned a ‘bootcamp’ training session but that has been postponed due to COVID-19 so in the meantime we’ve developed a ‘Soil Health Coaches Toolkit’.”

The toolkit contains practical tips and strategies for farmers who are supporting other farmers to change. It was developed with funding from the Queensland Government Reef Water Quality Program and is part of a strategy to build a network of soil health ‘coaches’ across the Wet Tropics who can help other farmers in the cane, banana and tropical fruit industries.

Farmers who are interested in finding out more can speak to their WTSIP extension officer, Fiona George from the Wet Tropics Major Integrated Project in Tully on 0488 702 203, Lawrence di Bella from the Herbert Cane Productivity Services on 0448084252, Michael Waring from the Regenerative Cane Farmers Network on 0428 771361, Rowan Shee from Terrain NRM on 0458 875 745 or Fiona George from the Wet Tropics Major Integrated Project in Tully on 0488 702 203.

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