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Beyond the Bale : Aug - Sep 08
Australian Wool Innovation Limited AWi, GPo Box 4177, Sydney NSW 2001 Profile Clare Hamilton Sustainable woolgrower and Landleader coordinator A natural partnership At times it can be difficult for Clare Hamilton to escape her work. After a day in the office, as a consultant on projects such as AWI’s Landleader program, she sits down to dinner to talk land management with her woolgrower husband, Sam, chairman of Watershed Landcare (Mudgee–Rylstone district, NSW), who often hosts land sustainability trials on their farm, ‘Ravenswood’ at Rylstone,NSW. Then,on weekends, Clare and her three young children can find themselves helping out with tree planting as part of an ongoing farm ecology improvement program. “The upside is I have my own in-home adviser who I can bounce ideas off and find out how growers and farmers will respond … especially to things such as surveys, like those put out as part of Landleader,” says Clare, who grew up in Sydney but later studied environmental horticulture. She started her career with the Landcare movement in central NSW before moving to water reform and the Department of Natural Resources. Sam is only too happy to be the occasional guinea pig and finds the fresh ideas that arrive via Claire’s work help him with improving practices, such as pasture management, on their 550- hectare farm and nearby land he leases for their wether-based wool-growing business. “We’ve been able to try some interesting things through trials, such as spreading sugar on the paddocks to encourage bug life,” he says. “This year we’re measuring the impact of traditional fertilisers spread on pastures versus using compost and compost teas, which should be interesting.” For the past two years Clare has managed the Landleader program – also funded by Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) – which is a voluntary program, based on landholder surveys, which aims to identify and promote the environmental and livestock stewardship credentials of the wool and red meat industries. With the first stage of the project completed in June, Landleader set out to provide a national system to capture and demonstrate the incremental improvements producers are making via on-farm practice change by surveying livestock producers and collating the results, for individuals and regional NRM bodies to compare performance with the rest of industry. The Landleader findings, Clare says, provide a tool for Australian producers to illustrate their commitment to environmental sustainability: “If you ever question what gains have been made in stewardship on Australian farms you only have to think back to 14 or 15 years ago. “One example is benchmarks for ground cover – in those days, 70 per cent ground cover was considered a suitable benchmark for land managers to attain,” she says. “In Landleader, if you see ground cover estimated at under 70 per cent you are surprised. In many areas the standard is now close to 100 per cent.” The majority of landholders now strive to improve environmental management, Clare says, due to improved education and the fact that poor practice is no longer acceptable. On ‘Ravenswood’, the Hamiltons have improved their sustainability through a tree-planting program – which will be up PHOTOS:KELLIE PENFOLD to 8500 trees over a 10-year period by the end of this year – and improved native pasture management by cell grazing. “You can see a marked difference as a result of these practices. Even if it is for nothing else, having more trees and improved ecology just makes your farm a nicer place to be.” Looking at the value of land-management programs from the grower perspective, Sam says it will help growers with issues such as managing carbon. “While there are still a lot of issues to be resolved with carbon creation, many growers would like to think that one day they could be paid for sequestering carbon, which would be one of the rewards for looking after our environment,” he adds. – KELLIE PENFOLD More information:www.landleader.com Clare and Sam Hamilton, Rylstone,NSW:reaping the rewards of commitment to their farm environment.
Jun - July 08
Oct - Nov 08