We live on “Merungie”, a 650 acre property that has been in my family for five generations. My main goal is to sustainably and profitably produce prime lambs for the local market.
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To me, sustainability is all about improving the health and condition of our farmland.
Like much of the land around Lucknow, “Merungie” was extensively cleared for mining and agriculture in the 20th Century. As a result, the property suffered gully erosion and a serious landslip occurred on a steep hill following the high rainfall years in the 1950s. Small but isolated patches of dryland salinity began to show up in the 1980s and almost all of the property was affected by soil acidity.
I have been working to fix these issues through extensive tree planting to protect sensitive areas, establishing windbreaks and wildlife corridors, liming acid soils, sowing perennial pastures and enhancing native pasture areas by improved grazing management.
Other improvements include erosion control earthworks, fencing out dams and the installation of a reticulated water system.
We have replanted over 15,000 native trees and shrubs, particularly on the exposed hill country and drainage lines. Bird numbers have increased, leading to better control of insect pests.
The changes made at “Merungie” have achieved a balance between sustainability and production. They go hand in hand – if sustainability improves, production increases.
For example, we now have much better lambing rates due to a reduction in wind exposure and chill factor. We have achieved multi-benefits from our tree planting including paddock division, rotational grazing, wildlife corridors and improved biodiversity.
We’ve also been able to reduce our operating costs because we now use less herbicide and chemical fertilisers. We have a much healthier landscape that supports healthy animals.
Another major benefit is that we have an attractive environment to work in, which makes you feel good and adds value to the property.
Landcare activities also have many off-farm benefits, including improved water and air quality and carbon sequestration through increased soil organic matter and growth of the native trees and shrubs. These practices also help to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change.
I’ve always believed that it’s important to share agricultural and environmental knowledge. In 1993 I was a founding member of the Emu Swamp Landcare Group, which has completed many on-the-ground environmental projects.
I was honoured to receive the 2007/08 NSW Individual Landcare Award, 2008 Central West CMA “Champion of the Catchment” Award for contributions to Landcare and on-farm conservation activities and the Pride of Australia Medal in the environment category in 2009.
We’ve hosted many field days and training events at “Merungie”. Hundreds of people have visited the property, including Landcare members, university students, school students, local Koori trainees and politicians.