Issue 31 - 16 June 2021
Message from RALF
Hello everyone,

In an exciting new initiative, the federal government has announced a $200 million National Soils Strategy along with an on-farm biodiversity program, see below. 
Our latest 'Big Shift' podcast episodes are on
'Managing Animal Pests' and 'Working With Weeds'.

Also in this edition: Learn how alpacas have helped a farmer overcome depression; Register for a food safety, field fencing or understanding soil tests workshop; Obtain business rebates, government grants or private scholarships; Learn about natural capital accounting, plus more. 

If you know someone who might be interested in joining the Greater Sydney Small Farms network, they can register HERE. To view previous newsletters, click HERE. To provide ideas on how the Greater Sydney Small Farms network can help you, please email or phone me on 0436 803 337

Richard Stephens
Regional Agriculture Landcare Facilitator (RALF) 
Our Small Farm Network continues to grow!

Thank you! The Greater Sydney Small Farm Network (SFN) has grown from 320 members in April 2019 to 697 in June 2021! And the recent SFN survey has provided some useful information about our network, including:
  • Seventy five percent have more than six years of farming or managing peri-urban land experience, and 47 percent have more than 11 years of experience.
  • Sixty three percent farm or manage 10HA or more, 45 percent manage 20HA or more and 26 percent look after 50HA or more.
  • While the network is aimed at the Greater Sydney region, 31 percent of its members are from elsewhere.
  • Forty two percent are self-described as farming business, either full time or part time, while another 30 percent consider themselves to be hobby farmers, 14 percent manage animals and 8 percent simple enjoy having a rural or semi- rural lifestyle.
  • Forty six percent raise beef cattle, 32 percent have horses, 27 percent produce poultry eggs, 27 percent grow vegetables and 22 percent have sheep for meat. 
  • While a slim majority (51 percent) say they currently carry out conventional farming practices, 68 percent want to carry out regenerative farming practices in the future. And while 42 percent say they currently farm holistically, 60 percent want to farm holistically in the future, and 21 percent are already organic producers, but 38 percent want to undertake organic farming in the future. 
  • The overwhelming goal is to leave the farm or land in better condition, followed by wanting to increase farming knowledge, then to enjoy the rural or semi-rural lifestyle and to reduce the area of degraded land.
  • The overwhelming challenges are weeds, followed by soil health, overcoming natural disasters and enhancing biodiversity and natural habitats.
  • The most wanted learning topic is weeds and their management, followed by improving soil health, pasture establishment and management along with grazing management.
  • Sixty seven percent currently have a bushfire plan and 41 percent have a whole farm or property plan. However, 69 percent want a whole farm or property plan 48 percent want a drought plan 40 percent want an emergency plan
  • The most trusted and reliable information sources are face to face workshops & events, followed by other farmers or land holders and then a farm, Landcare or community group. The least trusted and least reliable information source was social media.
  •  The most common Small Farm Network service wanted is to continue receiving the monthly E-newsletter, followed by attending relevant workshops, seminars, field days and/or farm visits.
  • The most desired workshop, meeting or event time is weekday mornings followed by weekday afternoons. 
Two new podcasts
Managing Animal Pests
We have dramatically changed the landscape by digging dams, introducing feral animals and clearing native habitat. These actions have created the perfect environment for certain species to thrive including mice, foxes and rabbits, which come with a range of challenges for farmers. So in this episode we’re going to hear about how to control these pests while we change our management to prevent problems in the future. Click 

Working With Weeds
 For most people, weeds are a dirty word. They’re often talked about as an undesirable plant in the wrong place. And whilst it's true that some species left unmanaged can cause ecological problems, weeds might just be trying to help us. So in this episode we discuss how we might need to change our management rather than blaming the messenger. Click 
National soils strategy and on-farm biodiversity

The food we eat, the clothes we wear, the air we breathe, the water we drink – it’s all underpinned by healthy and productive soils. Until now, we’ve lacked an integrated national approach to managing this valuable and finite resource.

In the May Federal Budget, almost $200 million for a National Soils Strategy. was announced. The strategy has three arms: Prioritise soil health;  Empower soil stewards and innovation, and  Secure soil science.

The 20-year plan recognises the vital role of soils for environmental and human health, the economy, food security, biodiversity and climate resilience. The Soil SRC outlines the boost for soil health
HERE, and the Conversation discusses it HERE.

In addition, $32 million was allocated to the federal government’s Agriculture Stewardship program to promote on-farm biodiversity. This includes funding to develop a trading platform to link buyers and sellers of biodiversity services and an enhancing remnant vegetation pilot, that could see farmers paid to leave native vegetation on farms.

Click HERE for a ABC new article or to read the federal government fact sheets on these environmental measures, click HERE.  

Joint venture opportunity in Western Sydney 
A joint venture investment opportunity on a 549 HA holistically managed grazing operation with beef cattle, sheep and pasture raised chicken (meat and eggs) is available. The land in Western Sydney is also suitable for cropping with cover and fodder crops currently grown and further expansion of the business desirable. A new business structure for the business will be required and a $50,000 investment could provide a 50% stake in the business. Click HERE. 
Alpacas help farmer overcome depression 
Michelle Hamilton started an alpaca farm when she was suffering from postpartum depression. The 'hobby' not only helped her mental health, but also turned into a lucrative livestock business, click HERE. Also, Rita Soares farms alpacas and noticed a rise in hobby or backyard farmers wanting to buy alpacas during COVID. Ms Soarez says alpacas are not suited to backyards, but can be very handy on large properties, click HERE.
Boneseed in flower over Winter 
Boneseed is an environmental weed that outcompetes native plants, reduces food and habitat for native animals and threatens endangered ecological communities. It is found throughout Greater Sydney and a single plant can produce 50,000 seeds a year, which can be spread by birds, rabbits, foxes and cattle, contaminated landscape supplies and dumped garden waste. In flower over winter, contact your local council Weeds Officer or call NSW DPI on 1800 680 244 if you see this weed. Click HERE
Do I need a biosecurity plan?
Biosecurity describes what you do to reduce the risk of diseases, weeds and pests affecting your land, crops and livestock. Good biosecurity practices include obtaining the health status of livestock before buying them, checking fodder is free of weed seeds and ensuring fences are stock proof. Biosecurity plans are not just for big livestock producers as biosecurity threats exist for all landholders. Click HERE.
Bee Friendly Farming 
Bee Friendly Farming (BFF) is a certification program that works with land managers to help protect, preserve and promote pollinator health. BFF provides guidelines for farmers and gardeners to promote pollinator health on their land and is overseen by a national taskforce of Australian experts, including scientists and farmers, and feature Integrated Pest Management. Click 
Nominate a champion
Nominations are invited for the 2021 State and Territory Landcare Awards which recognises individuals and community groups for outstanding contributions to preserving our unique Australian landscape. These awards support the sharing of knowledge, achievements and promote leadership and resilience. Eight  award categories are open, including: Individual Landcarer, partnerships and Landcare farming. Click HERE.
Food safety workshop 
Hear the experts from NSW Food Authority and DPI who will explain how to interpret and apply the NSW Food Safety Code and food service regulations to your agribusiness and farming enterprise. Also hear about food labelling, what to consider at the farm-gate, bio-security, and  agritourism considerations. This free workshop will be held at Ourimbah on 18 June, 9.30am to 3pm,  registration essential. Contact Julie McAlpin mobile 0414 190 175 or email [email protected] 
Field fencing demonstration
Following on from a successful fencing workshop last month, another is being held covering:  plain wire fencing techniques (includes knots and ties); post installation; swinging and fitment of gates; netting placement and installation. Friday, 2 July 2021 9.30am - 3pm at the Greater Sydney Demonstration Farm, 40 Edwards Road, Richmond Lowlands. Cost: $85 per person, includes lunch, BYO leather gloves & protective eyewear.
Making Sense of Soil Tests workshops
A one day workshop with soils expert David Hardwick will cover understanding your soil tests. Learn how to make sense of your soil test results, identify soil constraints and key nutrient issues. This workshop will help you be more informed about your soil test when getting agronomic advice. Bring your own soil test results!
Tuesday 13 July - Central Coast - register HERE; Wednesday 14 July - Richmond - register HERE;
Thursday 15 July - Camden - register HERE.
Mudgee Small Farm Field days
For over 40 years, the Mudgee Small Farm Field Days have attracted approximately 20,000 people per year and aims to promote innovation and sustainability in agriculture and rural living. Being held on 9-10 July 2021, these field days inform, educate and connect rural people with free demonstrations and talks along with commercial stalls, live music and activities. Click 
Pathway to Productive Pastures conference
The Grassland Society of NSW holds a major conference every second year in July or August. The 'Pathway to Productive Pastures' conference will be held at Mittagong RSL on 20-21 July 2021.The packed program includes bus tours and sessions on soil pH, fertility, pastures and soil organic carbon. For more information or to register, click HERE.
National Landcare Conference
The 2021 National Landcare Conference will be hosted by ABCTV host, Costa Georgiadis. The themes include: Sustainable Agriculture; Environment & Climate Change; Community Partnerships in Action; and Landcare Impact. Field Trips, including Agriculture in Greater Sydney, can now be booked and spaces are filling quickly!
When: 4-6 August 2021
Where: Convention Centre, Darling Harbour NSW
For more details, click 
Soil Biology Masterclass
This 2-day soil biology masterclass covers principles and knowledge in using soil biology and health to increase farm productivity and profitability. Learn about the role of microbes in nutrient availability for plant growth and resistance against disease and pests, discover the latest and future research on this topic and take a tour of the Western Sydney University research facilities. Wed-Thu, 4-5 August 2021 at Richmond, cost $395, click HERE.


Build Drought Resilience grants program 
With changing temperatures and increasing variability of rainfall, support is now available to adapt, reorganise or transform to help deal with  drought. The Build Drought Resilience program can fund events, projects, activities, training, and small-scale infrastructure that assist communities by strengthening  community networking, support, engagement, and wellbeing to deal with the impacts of drought. Not-for-profit organisations can apply for grants between $10,000 to 150,000. Round One closes 5 July 2021. For more information, click 
Farm educational bursaries 
Applications are open for farmer training on  co-operative and collaborative business models. These bursaries provide two levels of financial support, 90% or 100% of the cost of the course (worth up to $3,500) for agricultural community members who can demonstrate an interest in learning more about the co-operative business model or who have worked within a farming, fishing or forestry cooperative. Application close 14 August, click HERE. 
Strengthening Rural Communities
The Strengthening Rural Communities program aims to give small rural, regional and remote communities an opportunity to access funding for a broad range of grassroots, community-led initiatives that directly and clearly benefit local communities. It has been expanded to further support bushfire-affected communities. Grants of up to $10,000 are available through the Small & Vital Stream, and grants up to $25,000 are available through the Bushfire Recovery Stream. Click HERE.
Woolworths Organic Growth Fund
The Woolworths Organic Growth Fund supports organic farming projects by  Australian farmers. Woolworths is investing up to $30 million over five years to eligible Australian farmers in the form of interest-free loans and financial grants, on top of contracted purchase volumes.
Round five applications are now open. Learn more 
NSW Government's $1,500 rebate
To help small business, sole traders or not for profits recover from the impacts of COVID-19, reimbursement for NSW and local government business fees and charges  can be applied for. Food authority, liquor and trade licences, event fees, council rates and business vehicle registration fees can be reimbursed. You can apply for the rebate once but can submit multiple claims until the full value of $1,500 is reached. Click HERE.
Farm business resilience program
Farm managers and employees can now access subsidised learning and development opportunities in strategic business management, farm risk management and decision-making, natural resource management, and personal and social resilience. The program also offers farmers an assessment of their business's performance, support to develop or update farm business plans, access to one-on-one professional advice and practical tools and resources to take back to the farm. Click HERE.
Scholarships for research in agrifood
Food Agility CRC is offering 15 Higher Degree by Research (PhD or Masters level) top-up scholarships for students working on priority research areas in agrifood related to: Sensor innovations; Data analytics; Sustainable food production systems; Smart farms; Digital value chains; New markets and trading instruments. Applications close 31st July, click HERE.


Megatrends shaping Australian agriculture
Australia’s food and fibre industries will be shaped by multiple global, national, and local changes that will create opportunities and challenges for our farm businesses. To understand these evolving changes, CSIRO explores: The growth juggernaut - three billion empowered consumers; Fractal politics - beware the dance of giants; More from less - the permanent race for advantage; Cascading planetary risks - coming, ready or not; Disruptive technologies - opportunities for the brave. Click HERE.
The rise of natural capital accounting
Can Australia’s natural riches be quantified in economic terms? A growing group of environmentalists, economists, policy makers and scientists are pursuing research on the basis that the natural environment can, and should, be considered when making decisions. They believe the riches of nature can and should be measured as assets on a balance sheet. Read the CSIRO article HERE.

Dung beetle nurseries
Dung beetles are the quiet achievers of todays agriculture, and a partnership between farmers and Landcare will see the winter-active species become more prolific in NSW soil. A dozen farms are hosting dung beetle nurseries to hand-rear more winter-active species and it is hoped hand-rearing them in timber 'nurseries' will provide a better strike rate than the typical method of releasing 1,000 beetles in a paddock. Click HERE.
Overcoming a chemically limited future
Widespread use of agricultural chemicals will not be possible in the future, but the pests and diseases they fight are not going anywhere. So what can be done to control agripests in a chemically limited future? CSIRO are researching a systems approach to reduce, redesign or replace chemicals to meet new demands. Click HERE.
Compost Pellets Down the Tube
A recent MRA Consulting Group trial applying pelletised compost “down the tube” of an airseeder has resulted in increased crop yield and profit per hectare. The bulky nature of compost limits its widespread use in agriculture and horticulture. However, the ability to apply compost when sowing using an airseeder removes the cost of using contractors with specialised compost spreading equipment and enables a one-pass application of compost, seed and fertiliser. Click HERE.


Course in resilience
A new online course that builds capacity and resilience of farmers is now available. The 'Navigate Together' course is aimed at both male and female farmers and  builds psychological flexibility and skills in taking the steps towards doing what truly matters to us, even in the face of challenging stuff. It involves four, one-hour live zoom sessions, run over four weeks with discussion platforms, online resources and a handbook. Fees apply, click HERE
Guide to managing blackberries in waterways
Blackberries are a widespread weed in Australia, noxious in all states and territories and listed as a Weed of National Significance. Not only are blackberries capable of infesting large areas very quickly and smothering native vegetation under its dense canopy, climate modelling indicates that some regions will see a significant increase in its presence. This guide and video will help you manage blackberries around waterways, click HERE.    
The Stockman Grass Farmer 
The Stockman Grass Farmer is an international publication for a healthy planet and people through profitable grass-based livestock production. This free sample edition provides a special compilation of great stories and ideas on fencing, water, genetics, pastures, regenerative grazing, profitability, and more. Click HERE.
Facebook marketing 101
Community Supported Agriculture has sponsored this YouTube video on the basics of marketing using Facebook. The video provides a step by step demonstration on how to launch a Facebook campaign including planning, boosting verses ads and the structure of a campaign. View the video HERE.
The secrets of soil carbon
The latest in this Soil Carbon for Your Farm Business webinar series provides primary producer insight into soil carbon science, trading and accounting. It features presentations from industry experts including Dr Susan Orgill from the NSW Department of Primary Industries, the Clean Energy Regulator as well as primary producers who have successfully undertaken carbon trading. Click to view the webinar recordings HERE. 
Serpentine leafminer resource page
Serpentine leafminer was first found infesting field-grown vegetables in western Sydney in late-October 2020. Since then, there have been confirmed cases in regional NSW as well as in Queensland. Hort Innovation has created a serpentine leafminer resource page to assist growers and industry navigate this outbreak, click 
Farm Vlogs
Farm Vlogs is a series of day-to-day video logs that detail life on a mixed family farm. the aim of these videos is to help keep people with little or no knowledge of farming to understand and keep up to date with farming practices. If you have friends or family from urban areas wanting to better understand agriculture, get them to click HERE.   
Free insect ID service
PestFacts south-eastern, run by Cesar Australia, provides a free invertebrate ID service for growers in NSW and Victoria working with broadacre crops or pastures. Funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation, learn how to make a field report and send samples for identification
HERE or subscribe to receive a regular e-newsletter
This project is supported by Greater Sydney Local Land Services through funding from the Australian Government's National Landcare Program. 
The information contained in this publication is based on knowledge and understanding at the time of writing. However, because of advances in knowledge, users are reminded of the need to ensure that the information upon which they rely is up to date and to check the currency of the information with the appropriate officer of Local Land Services or the user’s independent adviser. For updates go to www.lls.nsw.gov.au 
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