Facilitator, BestFarms Environmental Management Systems www.bestfarms.com.au Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Board Member, National Association for Sustainable Agriculture www.nasaa.com.au
Good environmental management is not yet recognised in Western Australia in a way that could attract price premiums, although there are several initiatives that may bring such a premium in the future for primary produce and value added goods.
BestFarms provides a programme involving a two day workshop and ongoing support for the development and implementation of an Environmental Management System (EMS). Feedback from people who have completed and implemented an EMS with BestFarms indicate that there are many and varied rewards for best practice environmental management. The main benefit being an improved environment and the benefits that improvement brings to both lifestyle and the workplace.
Other rewards and recognition are being achieved in the form of improved production, successful grant applications, nominations for environmental awards, peer approval, or maybe just a quiet sense of satisfaction in a job well done.
Industry specific recognition with the potential for certification is well advanced for Entwine (Australian Wine Industry initiative) and in progress to allow certification/environmental labelling for grain, wool, eggs, and vegetables. There is also the potential for engaging in carbon trading.
Following is a brief look at various rewards gained by people who developed and implemented an EMS with BestFarms assistance.
A family group including, Lindy Porter, Jeremy Scudds, and Clint and Michele Roberts undertook EMS planning in 2007 for their 80Ha property, located northwest of Bridgetown. The property includes an historic homestead, Peninsula House, which has been painstakingly restored, and a herd of British White and Piamontese stud cattle. These cattle are for breeding stock as well as the certified organic/quality meat market. Most of the family members have had little or no experience in land management although all have a great enthusiasm and love for the property they share.
In 2007 BestFarms provided workshop facilitation for Clint and Michelle, and then followed up with a property visit for the entire family group. The group used the EMS process to educate themselves in the needs of the land and to plan for the development of their property. Each planning topic raised during the EMS development process was carefully researched by at least one family member with the sum of the research being the general improvement in education on land management for all family members.
Unfortunately this property became an example of the need for corrective actions when much of the implemented actions went up in smoke in a major bushfire in January 2009. Fire destroyed revegetation plantings, pasture and fencelines across the property.
Forward works have been halted while fencelines are rebuilt and pastures are restored. Blackberry outbreaks are being suppressed in the revegetation area. Although the roses in the garden were singed the historic house was saved. Clint says “The EMS may have saved the Pen house as it highlighted the need for fire fighting equipment, maintenance and service. As a result the fire fighting trailer was bought and without that we may have lost the house.”
Once the development of the property is back on track the next step will be to work towards organic certification and the planning process will address requirements of the Australian Organic Standard. Record keeping templates that are a part of the family’s EMS can be used as documentary evidence when undergoing audits for the organic certification.
The EMS provided the members of Peninsula House a structured and auditable planning and record keeping system that has been applied to other facets of the farming operation. The need for water resource management and storage was identified in the EMS with plans then developed to drought proof the farm in a drying climate. Noting predictions for a 10% reduction in rainfall, the members of Peninsula House have identified other suitable farming activities to develop. These activities include passive (permaculture) aquaculture for marron and trout, and native riparian vegetation propagation.
Rewards for the family have been the increase in knowledge for all members, satisfaction of progress being made and a framework and auditable record keeping system that all members can communicate and function within. Once organic certification is in place there may be a price premium for the meat but this was not the reason for undertaking environmental planning.
Sheila Howat and Sean Grant have spent thirty years building their 100 acre Bridgetown property from undeveloped land into the thriving environment it is today. Tortoiseshell Farm includes bed and breakfast accommodation, a wildlife refuge, bush retreat and a hobby farm. Seventy acres of the property is now left as naturally regenerating bush, this having been logged by previous owners.
With the lifelong priority of being a Wildlife Carer, Sheila says that environmental considerations have always been given some attention but until she attended the BestFarms EMS workshop environmental management was somewhat haphazard. Sheila now works to her written environmental action plan with a long term management strategy for all identified issues, including managing an increasing number and volume of environmental weeds, building biodiversity by increasing habitat for native species of flora and fauna and displacing non-native species. The action plan also takes into consideration the impact tourism can have on the environment and the farm, and includes a fire plan for residents and guests.
The immediate benefit for Tortoiseshell Farm was the clarification of direction, strategies for the impact of tourism and the recording of environmental works already done. The EMS also contains wording useful for educational and promotional material. In the longer term the benefits are showing up in the vigorous growth of the revegetation areas, the immediate population of the new frog pond and the information being at hand when needed at short notice for lobbying to prevent unsustainable development in the immediate area of Tortoiseshell Farm.
Other benefits include independent recognition by achieving BestFarms certification and winning the 2008 EMSA Conference Premiers Award (Small Business Category) for Environmental Management. Both are seen as positive reinforcement and recognition of what has been achieved environmentally.
Mick Quartermaine farms “Yowangup” a 410 hectare property near Kojonup, Western Australia, developing his property for intensive, quality lamb, hoggett and mutton production. This development requires effective paddock design, pasture upgrades for quality fresh and stored feed, and the careful consideration of nutrient capture and animal health and welfare.
Mick has used the BestFarms Environmental Management System approach to develop and implement his initial ideas. The EMS planning process included consideration of legal requirements, public perception and animal welfare. EMS record keeping will document progress, monitor success and provide a defence for what may be seen as negative elements of an intensive farming operation.
Using this planning process Mick has found he can also address requirements for organic certification and will be well positioned to move his product into the growing market for environmentally friendly meat. He will be able to apply for organic certification with proof in place for his animal and pasture management and for his nutrient capture using a more intensive farming method.
Rewards for Mick are time and money saved by planning before action, record keeping in place for future certification and regulatory requirements and, in the longer term, the potential for a price premium or at the very least improved market access.
Michael and Neroli Carlton share their 32 hectare property east of Bridgetown WA with the local wildlife plus a number of alpaca’s and horses. Mike and Neroli do not need to make a living from the property. They are keen to bring the landscape back into full health and have worked hard to preserve waterways and revegetate both the creekline and higher ground while still being able to provide pasture for their domestic animals. Mike and Neroli attended the BestFarms workshop and developed an EMS to plan for future actions. Having a written EMS in place was a key factor in the Carlton’s obtaining Groundwork’s funding in 2007 for fencing and revegetation works. Mike and Neroli’s reward is the view from their window and the satisfaction and enjoyment they derive from their property.
BestFarms has many such examples as these few showcased here.
In a world of climate change and multiple pressures on landholders, these benefits are just the beginning.
Enivronmental Management Systems
BestFarms – www.bestfarms.com.au
ISO 140001 – www. iso.org
Australian Organic and Biodynamic Standard - www.ofa.com.au
National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia – www.nasaa.com.au
Carbon Smart – www.carbonsmart.com.au
Carbon Neutral – ww.carbonneutral.com.au
TreeSmart – www.treesmart.com.au
Errol Seymour –www. organicfinefood.com.au
Sheila Howat – www.tortoiseshellfarm.com
Blackwood Valley Wine Industry Association – www.blackwoodvalleywine.asn.au.