I am truly blessed to be a farmer. There is not a day that goes by that I would rather be doing anything else. It is without doubt, one of the most vibrant, dynamic, meaningful vocations that I can think of.
I wake up in the morning to the chattering of corellas outside my bedroom window, perched in swaying gumtrees. My horse whinnies for me to feed her before I have my own breakfast, and by mid-morning I’m usually bumping along a track with my mum to go check the fences or clean out a sheep trough. During the heat of the day I am indoors at my computer. I have just finished my PhD – on how to recycle and revalue agricultural by-products to improve soil fertility and capture nutrients within local farming systems – and I am now writing a book on food systems. In the afternoons I often have teleconferences, where I connect with people working on climate change and food security. These conversations are focused on harnessing the energy that swells in people who are determined to change the current trajectory. They share my enthusiasm for making meaningful difference. At sunset I walk our dogs down to the dam, where they run, bark and splash in the evening light. We often take binoculars to the water’s edge to check out the birdlife – these last few weeks we’ve spotted white-faced herons, rainbow bee-eaters and black-fronted dotterels. Kangaroos nonchalantly hop down for a drink amongst the evening’s goings-on, and swallows skim the water’s surface for insects as the sun dips below the horizon.
Rural Australia is a place you can easily fall in love with. She is beautiful and calming. She is also extremely fragile.
My love for this place is why when I see her in pain, I feel that pain. I experience the drought, heatwaves and dust-storms with her and I see the toll it takes on the place I call home.
Climate change is having severe impacts on my home, and like farmers around the world, I am concerned about how we will produce food as conditions worsen.
If you’ve ever stood before an approaching dust-storm, you will know what I mean when I describe it as a formidable dark beast crawling along the landscape. Bellowing a low grumble as it makes its way across vast stretches within minutes, unfolding to the heavens and engulfing everything in its way.
It’s a sight we farmers in far western New South Wales see often during drought. A powerful reminder of one’s insignificance in the face of Mother Nature – and simultaneously our great impact upon her.
Humans have been greedy, asking too much of our common home. Chain-sawing forests, sucking rivers dry, consuming more than is able to be replenished. We have degraded our life-support system, and we are now paying the price for that behaviour.
The dust-storms that I witness on my family’s farm highlight just how vulnerable we are.
In this region that I call home, it is projected to become hotter, drier and that we’ll experience more frequent and intense droughts and heatwaves. So what does the future hold for the semi-arid inland Australia? How do farmers like me produce food to feed a rapidly growing global population in a climate troubled world?
Our future rests in our hands today.
I am one of the founding Directors of an Australian organisation called Farmers for Climate Action. It is a group that gives me hope and energy in a time when it is easy to feel overwhelmed and lost.
Farmers for Climate Action is a movement of farmers, agricultural leaders and rural Australians working to ensure farmers are a key part of the solution to climate change. It is a farmer-led organisation that specialises in climate action, and we work across the agricultural and climate sectors to manage risks and find opportunities to adapt to, and mitigate, climate change.
Our theory of change is simple. We believe that if we organise farmers, graziers and agriculturalists, to lead climate solutions on-farm and advocate together, we can influence our sector and the government to implement climate policies that reduce pollution and benefit rural communities.
Our work is supported by four strategic pillars;
· Farmer education and training:We are working to ensure farmers have the tools they need to remain profitable and sustainable long-term as the challenges of a changing climate, including extreme weather risk, come to bear.
· Political and industry advocacy:We support farmers, industry and political leaders to champion climate action in their communities and within every level of government.
· Building farmer networks:We are bringing farmers together to ensure they have the strongest voice possible when calling for action on climate change.
· Partnerships across industry and research: We are committed to helping the leaders of Australian agriculture become champions for climate action.
Rural and regional Australia stands at a crossroads. With our clear natural advantages, a history of world-class research and innovation, and talented people, we have a once in a generation opportunity to build a future of resilience and sustainable growth. Regional Australia is responsible for about 40 per cent of the nation’s economic output and provides jobs for around one third of Australia’s workforce. It is the backbone of Australian agriculture, which seeks to grow from a value of around $60 billion to $100 billion over the next decade. But with climate change challenging our food producers, we have to think creatively and we have to act quickly.
Farmers for Climate Action has developed a strategy called Regional Horizons to create new opportunities for jobs and industries, while building a climate-smart rural and regional Australia. It promotes existing successes, networks and investments and provides policy integration and certainty, making possible private, public and community led innovation.
Regional Horizons is underpinned by four areas of work:
By implementing these areas of work, the Regional Horizons strategy could help to deliver a boom in new industries, investment in climate-smart farms, a thriving landscape carbon industry, and greater farm resilience and performance.
Like many farmers in Australia and around the world, I am being challenged by climate change, but I am also excited by the innovation and determination I see in the agricultural sector to make a positive difference. Climate change is a concern for food producers today, and the food producers of tomorrow. Only by acting in an ambitious and collaborative manner will we achieve the bright and resilient food secure future that we all want.