EMS and ME

Tony Austin
June 2006

EMS is about formalising a whole host of thoughts, plans, actions and results that we have been undertaking on our farm since we (my wife and I) took over this property twelve years ago.

Production of the best quality product from our farm cannot be achieved without ensuring that the environment necessary for that production is continually improved and maintained. (The current phrase is sustainable agriculture.)

I have always been driven by the desire for quality and the understanding that that quality must be able to be assured. Therefore Quality Assurance is something I strongly believe in. Our farm achieved Cattlecare Accreditation in February 1998 and recently Freshcare Accreditation for our chestnut production enterprise. (This will be extended to our Japanese green tea production when harvesting commences in spring 2007.)

EMS is Quality Assurance for our farm environment! It is about planning and management of our farm in such a way that reduces and minimises the impacts on the natural environment of those practices necessary for the successful operation of our agricultural enterprises.

The opportunity to be involved in a pilot project aimed at introducing a formalised EMS to the farming community was not to be missed. Also the opportunity to be able to meet other local farmers and share experiences in relation to the practical aspects of environmental management was at the forefront my decision to get into EMS. The fact that this was to be facilitated and co-ordinated by enthusiastic members of North East CMA with a genuine belief in the EMS concept turned out to be both a bonus and an essential ingredient.

The principle of Continual Improvement (Plan, Do, Check, Review) on which EMS is based is a great way to ensure that our environmental management programme is not a “once off” but an on-going process which continually improves our farm and surrounds.

The structure and processes that were documented in the Australian EMS Manual enabled our group to work logically through the process of constructing an EMS for our properties. The initial EMS Self-Assessment was a terrific first step towards an environmental review of our property and a great introduction to the various items that are part of the review process. It is an essential lead-in to creating an EMS, and underpins the need for the individual property focus of any EMS.

It is a very important point that the EMS is relevant to the individual property, and it must be understood that all properties (and their occupants) are different. We must bear in mind that as a group of farmers we all live in the same catchment and therefore need to be aware of the Catchment Management Strategies which affect us all. However, we have topographically different properties, different enterprises and different personal aims and ideals. It follows therefore, that we may have different environmental management priorities even though our environmental aspects and impacts may be similiar.

By working within a group environment I was able to appreciate different perspectives of managing the environment based on the experiences (both good and bad) of both myself and the other members of the group. The fact that we are all local farmers meant that we all understood the need to run a successful farming enterprise at the same time as caring for and improving our farm environment.

I am glad that I was able to be part of the Tallangatta Group of this pilot EMS project and very pleased and satisfied to have created an EMS for my farm. I would thoroughly recommend all land holders to take up the EMS principles and get involved. By working together we can achieve more and make it more enjoyable and stimulating at the same time.

I consider myself fortunate to be the current custodian of the land on which I live and work and my aim is to ensure that when I hand it on, it is in an environmentally better state than when I received it, and that it is a sustainable and productive farm.
My EMS program is essential for this aim to be realised!

Tony Austin
342 Reids Lane
Tawonga Vic 3697
Phone: (03) 5754 5240

(One of the 100 farms in the pilot program conducted by a partnership of North Central, North East & Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Authorities in Victoria,  and funded by the Australian Government through its EMS National Pilot Programs)