Drenching rain through Victoria in January has left some farmers swamped but regenerative farming techniques have helped others keep their heads above water.
By mid-January, James and Donna Winter-Irving’s farm at Nagambie, 130km north of Melbourne, had received twice its monthly average rainfall, with 92mm falling.
Mr Winter-Irving has been farming his land for 45 years and said this time the land has recovered from the big rain event better than ever before.
The pair turned to holistic management three years ago and said those practices have helped them cope with the extreme weather event and avoid erosion on their 620ha property.
“Because we’ve got 100 per cent of ground cover 100 per cent of the time, we have very minimal (topsoil) movement – that’s important, not allowing your topsoil to wash away,” he said.
The Winter-Irving’s have recently stopped cropping and using fertlisers, and have also begun rotating their sheep through different paddocks.
The soil health and pasture growth on the farm has never been better.
“It gives a chance for the plants to recover, we’re growing more feed at this time of the year than previously,” Mr Winter-Irving said.
After becoming interested in holistic farming 30 years ago, the couple only began their training when they hit their early 50s.
“We started researching alternative soils and lifestyles way back in our 20s, but then got caught up with four boys and life, and then it wasn’t until our 50s we said we can now do this,” Ms Winter-Irving said.
“We’ve just adopted the full holistic management training, where we only have a couple of mobs, in a drought or flood it’s pretty easy to manage the stock.”
Ms Winter-Irving admits owning the property outright has taken the financial pressure off.
“You wished you had have done it 20 years ago.”
The Winter-Irving’s completed part of their training with the Andrews family, who are credited with starting up Natural Sequence Farming
Peter Andrews pioneered the practice, which works with the landscape’s natural function, at his Tarwyn Park property in the Hunter Valley of NSW.
The methods helped turn around the badly degraded property into a productive farm.
His son Stuart Andrews who now farms near Gympie in Queensland, focuses on NSF, as well as educating hundreds of farmers a year.
“NSF is about how the landscape should function, then you overlay whatever production system you feel the landscape is capable of handling,” Mr Andrews told AAP.
Over the past decade about 1300 farmers have participated in the Tarwyn Park NSF training.
“If you can build resilience into a landscape then you can handle dry and wet weather better,” Mr Andrews said.
“So that the food that we are producing is healthy, and our landscapes are not going backwards.”
For the Winter-Irving’s the results have been life changing and given them more down time.
The pair will run their own education session when they host a field day on holistic management from their Victorian property 90 minutes out of Melbourne in April.
(Australian Associated Press)