Sustainability on Small Farms

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About Sustainability on Small Farms

Rural residential subdivisionMany small farms managers in the Molonglo catchment are new to the land and lack experience. This is impacting adversely on sustainable agricultural practices and biodiversity protection, and collectively affecting large areas of the landscape. Issues often associated with small farm managers include misidentification of weeds and native plants, inadvertent introduction of weed species and overstocking and overgrazing of small areas inadvertently increasing erosion and leading to water quality issues in dams and waterways.

The Sustainability on Small Farms project recognises that small farms have not been a focus for regional bodies aiming to achieve large catchment targets. Combined with on going rural subdivision this has resulted in a overwhelming demand for information and on-ground support from small farms in the Molonglo catchment. The Small Farms project will cater to the needs of small farm managers by providing field days, on-site advice and tailored incentives to achieve real on ground change.

The Molonglo catchment covers an area of about 200,000 ha, much of which was once covered in threatened Box - Gum grassy woodland and natural temperate grassland. Agriculture and urban expansion, particularly peri-urban expansion, have impacted heavily on these habitats. The protection, extension and connection of the remaining modified woodland and grassland patches are critical for maintaining biodiversity and habitat values in this area. Much of the remaining habitat is present on small farms, so Sustainability on Small Farms aims to educate these landholders about what is present on their property and provide incentives to allow them to preserve, expand and connect these remnants. Among the species reliant on this vegetation community are Superb Parrots, Brown Tree Creepers, Rosenberg monitors, pink-tailed worm lizards, grassland earless dragons and sugar gliders.

Bird ID day at RossiSmall farms now cover large areas of the Molonglo catchment. Their managers are often new to the land and lack experience which can impact adversely on sustainable agricultural and biodiversity protection. The Molonglo Catchment Group and its member groups have long recognised the potential impact of small farms on the landscape and have developed publications, field and training days, regular meetings with guest speakers to influence and assist farm management within the catchment.

Similarly, Greening Australia Capital Region has been working with the small acreages in the ACT region for over a decade. Projects such as VIP, Corridors of Green and, more recently, Under New Management and Good Neighbours have recognised the importance of actively engaging small farms managers in improving their land, water and vegetation management practices.

Sustainability on Small Farms aimed at supporting the overwhelming demand for information and on-ground support from small farm hotspots around the ACT in the Molonglo catchment. This project was a partnership between the Molonglo Catchment Group and Greening Australia Capital Region supported by the Australian Government's Caring for our Country initiative and provided extensive on-site advice, support and tailored incentives aimed at improving the sustainable management practices across several small farms in the Molonglo catchment such as:

  • Tailored incentive package that caters to the needs of small farm managers
  • Face to face site visits, technical advice, site assessments and management agreements
  • 10 year management agreements and fixed incentive rates to undertake:
    • Fencing for remnant vegetation and riparian protection and revegetation
    • Revegetation, pest plant control, erosion prevention and control
  • Follow-up support for land managers to implement incentives and management actions
  • Open farm days and the distribution of supporting materials and publications
  • Groups equipped and trained to monitor water quality at 4 new sites within the project area

The project was completed on schedule at the end of December 2010 and included nine open farm/field days which attracted a total of 216 people. The field days included

  • Native Grass and Pasture Weed seminar with Geoff Robertson and Alison Elvin.
  • Jane Myers Managing Horses on Small Properties seminar
  • Managing Horses on Small Properties field day with Jane Myers of Equiculture and Alison Elvin of Natural Capital.
  • Organic Farming in the ACT at Pialligo Apples. Presenters at the session were Jonathan Banks of Pialligo Apples, David Dumaresq of the Fenner School and David Pearson from University of Canberra and Australian National University.
  • Soil Carbon under Pastures farm day with local farmer Sherry McArdle-English, and representatives from the Department of Industry and Investment and the Department of Environment, Climate Change, Energy and Water.
  • Two field days with local bird expert Nicki Taws to discuss the biodiversity benefits of revegetation on properties.
  • A Reading the Landscape with David Tongway field day in Burra.
  • Workshop on use of the Vegetation Monitoring Manual, A Step-by-Step Guide to Monitoring Native Vegetation in the ACT (Sarah Sharp and Lori Gould, 2010) was held in Carwoola.

On-ground outcomes included:

  • A total of 79.1ha under voluntary management agreements, 33.8ha of revegetation, 38.9ha of serrated tussock control and 6.4ha fenced.
  • The 33.8ha of revegetation utilised local provenance tubestock and provides habitat linkages and stepping stones between remnant patches.
  • Two landowners were provided with funding towards the cost of chemicals, as part of integrated control programs across 38.9 ha.
  • Thirty four land managers informed of appropriate grazing, weed and feral animal control during site visits and a further 216 at field days and farm visits.
  • 6.4ha of grassy box woodland protected by fencing.

The MCG are proud of the projects achievements and would like to thank everyone involved in field days, property owners who undertook on-ground work and management agreements and a special thank you to Angela Calliess of Greening Australia for all her hard work in ensuring terrific on-ground outcomes were achieved.

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Last modified: 27/03/2014