Regenerative agriculture is a combination of farming practices that rehabilitates the land. It aims to:
increase biodiversity and carbon under and above the soil
enhance soil life, biodiversity & health
boost the healthy retention and cycling of water
increase resilience to climate change
restore damage to the land caused by inappropriate land use.
The nuts and bolts of regenerative agriculture is different on each farm. Here’s how we have gone about it on “Greenhill”.
Greenhill before 1997
Sheep were introduced here in 1835. A century of overgrazing followed – mining the soil of nutrients and carbon.
An industrious soldier settler was awarded the farm in 1948. He fulfilled his government obligations by cutting down most of the trees and grazing lots of sheep.
Greenhill in 1997
We purchased Greenhill in April 1997. The only treed areas were at each end of the farm – the 1000 acres in the middle were almost completely bare. There were a total of 8 paddocks. Erosion gullies marred several slopes. Moura Creek was overgrazed by livestock, as was a large marshland area. Wildlife consisted mainly of cockatoos and kangaroos.
What to do? We started with a large aerial photo and drew in the different land types and capabilities. We then made a plan.
So far, we’ve:
- Planted around 60,000 trees. Mostly as shelterbelts and wildlife corridors, but also around dams and gullies. Our biggest treeline connects Gibraltar Hill (the big hill next to Bungendore) with the vast expanse of trees towards the coast.
- Fenced off the existing native bush areas on both sides of the farm and grazing them sparingly.
- Fenced off Moura Creek, erosion gullies and a large marsh area.
- Increased the number of paddocks to 50. We rotate stock according to actual grass growth (regeneration), not time.
- Installed dams, tanks, pumps and water troughs to service the new paddocks.
- Stopped using synthetic chemicals of any kind on most of the farm – on the soil, plants or animals. We’ve been certified organic and biodynamic since 2007. We went with Demeter Biodynamics because it aligns with our regenerative approach.
- We started a 3-acre certified organic and biodynamic mixed vegetable garden in 2015. It started as a drought management strategy and to help keep our farm viable. We use regenerative principles here, too, with lots of cover crops and minimal soil disturbance. Tim and his young family now run organic free-range chickens. Sarah has planted organic/biodynamic berries.
So what’s next for regenerative agriculture on Greenhill?
So much to do and mistakes to make… We’re aiming for more trees, better holistic grazing, smarter vegetable tools and less need for fossil fuels. Our focus will continue to be on the soil, the pastures, and the cattle and vegetables. In that order, because if we get the soil right the others follow. That’s the essence of biodynamics.
Regenerative agriculture is an ongoing process!