400 Acres has been certified organic for more than 15 years supplying Organic Dairy Farmers of Australia. Irrigating more than 400 acres in North East Victoria, Doug Fehring of 400 Acres runs an organic dairy operation which shares some of its acreage with a pair of young brothers running a free-range egg enterprise. The painted ‘wheeled henhouse’ engages the principles of sustainability by travelling in the wake of a grazing organic dairy herd. Each day the chooks feast on the grubs growing in the cow pats, scratching the soil and spreading their own brand of goodness on the pasture as they go.
Starting out as conventional farmers, the Fehring’s had developed a “more on” mentality until more on didn’t work any more! This drove the quest to find out more about soil biology and ecology, which led to the discovery of how biological farming could improve both soil health and the overall health of the farming ecosystem. Experimentation with organic agricultural techniques finally led to organic certification.
The Fehring’s have employed a young girl that loves cows and is enthusiastically learning how to work in conjunction with nature rather than trying to control nature across the four seasons. Under the Fehring’s guidance, this young farmhand is learning how to be proactive and resilient, circumventing potential future issues through good ecological management in the present.
400 Acres joined the Organic Dairy Farmers Cooperative while it was still in its infancy nearly 15 years ago. “Since joining we have continually received a premium over and above conventional milk price and have never had a step down in price.”
“I like the concept of a ORICoop and can see that there is a need for a better connection between the end user of organic products and the producers of the products.”
By Doug Fehring, Edited by Eva Perroni
Nestled 750 metres above sea level, in the cool climate of Stanley, Victoria, Black Barn Farm is a biodiverse orchard, nursery and learning space. Home to the Showers family, Black Barn Farm is a permaculture-based horticultural operation, where they grow a rich variety of apples, pears, quince and berries, among some perennial herbs and vegetables, with more than 50 varieties spread across their 23 acres. Their produce supplies the local farmers markets and is open to the public for pick-your-own adventures. The Showers also operate a fruit tree and perennial plant nursery and run regular feasts, gatherings, workshops and other events, often in partnership with other local fair food advocates. Fostering a diverse orchard ecosystem, the Showers understand that healthy, nutrient-dense food comes from maximum tree nutrition which comes from super healthy soils – that takes time, biomass, biodiversity and carefully managed disturbance. Stanley Apples, pears, cherries, chestnuts, walnuts and berries all have a long history in Stanley, where the locals turned to horticulture after the gold rush. At its peak, there were more than 30 families earning a living as orchardists, but as the Australian food system became more centralised and concentrated, these farming families have been whittled down to just a handful. Moving to Stanley 18 years ago, the Showers watched small family-owned operations struggle to make a living in a supermarket dominated world, pulling up walnut trees and their families’ history with them. After a study tour of Vermont, USA, where they experienced a truly localised and resilient food system, the Showers decided to start their own orchard business and community-owned food co-operative in Beechworth, the start of a big journey for improved food security and sovereignty in North East Victoria. Life on the Farm Cold sub-alpine frosty re-setting winters with regular snow is downtime on Black Barn Farms, a time for hibernation and renewal in preparation for the busy year ahead. Spring slowly arrives with short-lived bursts of warmth kicking off the tree grafting season, before arriving in full wonder with amazing orchard blossoms, bees and fruitlets giving an idea of the fruitful bounty to come. Summer sees the orchard spring to life with berries, cherries and early apples for picking, days spent swimming in the dam and checking irrigation lines. Autumn is into the thick of apple, pear and quince season as the harvest hits full swing, with the end of a hard-working season leaving the family looking forward to a rest again over winter. Why Regenerative? The Showers Family are motivated to live a simple, rewarding, community entrenched and seasonally-based life where they can earn a living from a sustainable and regenerative source. Part of the local food revolution and building a sustainable local food system, the Showers have chosen a farming system that best aligns with permaculture-inspired philosophy and goals to increase food security and build community in their local area. “We are not certified, we are radically transparent and operate with the full trust of our customers who buy direct from us in full knowledge of how and why we farm the way we do. We believe in simple, minimal overhead approaches where relationships are valued and supply chains are purposefully short! We don’t farm organically because of opportunities or premiums, we farm regeneratively for the permanence of our culture.” “We joined ORICoop to support the development of an organisation that changes our food system for the better. Promoting and driving new investment in organic and regenerative farming starts to change the way our culture values its food system, improving food security and food sovereignty. Reflections with Thanks to Charlie Showers & Eva Perroni ”
New bill will be first step by ministers to protect and restore soil as fears grow over a future soil fertility crisis
A new bill will be brought before parliament this year mandating, for the first time, measures and targets to preserve and improve the health of the UK’s soils, amid growing concern that we are sleepwalking into a crisis of soil fertility that could destroy our ability to feed ourselves.
Agriculture Victoria has launched the $2 million Artisanal Agriculture and Premium Food program.
The program will support the growth of Victoria’s food and agriculture businesses and identify pathways to market for artisanal and premium products.
June 15, 2018 6.39am AEST
What if Australia were to stop farming? At approximately 3% of gross domestic product, the removal of agriculture from the economy would be a significant hit. It would affect our balance of payments — 60% of agricultural produce is exported and it contributes 13% of Australia’s export revenue.