Nature@Work Farming with benefits

Matt Trewin, fifth generation farmer, is curious about how to manage his 1000 acre dryland cropping farm, incorporating nature to create beauty, develop alternative income sources and provide resilience strategies for the health of his land. He returns to the farm with corporate learning, understanding that the property is part of a larger natural system, in which correct care will provide a sustainable (financial, social and environmental) future for his family.

The farming enterprise over the course of Trewin's five generations has varied from cropping to sheep. They have consistently maintained an award winning Clydesdale horse breeding program with Clydesdale's still present creating a feel of nostalgia as you drive through the front entrance to the original homestead.

The current enterprise of cropping allows the greatest flexibility as Matt and his family are managing full-time work and farm management on the weekends. He is aware that his off-farm income assists in supporting new creative ventures on his property, but highlights that the farming operation is financially viable on its own. Matt is keen to continue to run the farm profitably but consider options for income in order to maintain the health of his soils, including its water holding capacity, and create habitat for insects that control pests and pollinate crops.

Matt is concerned about the resilience of farming landscapes. He observes that they are likely to be at risk with climate anomalies such as wind, rainfall and temperature behaving outside of the 'normal range'. In the dryland cropping landscape of Devenish, Matt is concerned about relying on one enterprise. He believes there is a greater risk involved when thinking about the impacts of weather extremes and how this would impact farm security, family contentment and profit margins.

By building financial, social and environmental resilience into his farming landscape, Matt is assisting the land and his local community withstand and recover from natural disasters.

It costs 50% more to rebuild in the wake of a disaster than to build in a way that can withstand the shock. (Rockfeller Foundation Resilient Cities)

Initially Matt's drive was to maintain old trees like this one from dying out of the landscape. He was keen to ensure succession of new paddock trees, maintaining the importance of them in the natural system as shade, shelter, habitat and long-term carbon storage.

Paddock trees also assist with water infiltration, salinity management and can improve the structure and quality of soils. (Australian National University, Sustainable Farms Booklet)

To highlight their commitment to creating a more natural system, Matt and his family have planted shelterbelts around each of their cropping paddocks, fenced off their waterway and cordoned off their wildflower paddock to ensure the continued proliferation of wildflowers in the Spring. Remnant bush is also a feature of the property which the Trewin's are intent on managing as effectively as possible to reflect the grassy woodland vegetation type.

Matt's family are particularly fond of the remnant vegetation, providing habitat for birds, mammals and reptiles that frequent the area. They see this area of the farm as a potential income source through guided wildflower walks with contacts they have made in their sabbatical to Melbourne.

" Improving and linking vegetation and other natural assets across the landscape is an effective way to improve the ecosystem services on your property. There are important cumulative benefits for productivity and biodiversity when natural assets - such as shelter belts, paddock trees, rocky outcrops and riparian area - are connected" (Australian National University, Sustainable Farms Booklet)

Matt is exploring the use of native pastures in select areas of his farm. He is developing ways to improve growth and harvest of bush foods endemic from a different era. He hopes to improve his soil and reduce his overheads, but for now, he is content to work with small patches of land and understand how these may assist improving the whole system.

The Goulburn Broken CMA, through funding through the Australian Government's National Landcare Program, was able to support Matt's farm by; providing trees to increase native vegetation connections and biodiversity; support the Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation to conduct a cultural heritage assessment in a site where Quandong trees were growing prolifically; and host a field day where the Trewins could learn from others and tell their story.

Matt and his family have a plan to return full-time to the farm. They want to continue to create flexibility into their livelihoods, environment and farming system.

When asked what is the most important aspect of creating this Matt responded by saying

Be curious, ask questions of people, be open to information that arises, seeking to place that into your own framework. Learning and planning is the key.
This project is supported by the Goulburn Broken CMA through funding from the Australian Government's National Landcare Program.