"The McIntoshs at Border Park Organics"
An Australian CROPPING CASE STUDY | August 2022
Meet Josh and Peri McIntosh who manage Border Park Organics. Farming at Border Park has thrown many challenges their way, but Josh and Peri are resourceful people, guided by shared values, a strong sense of community and a can-do approach to life. While Josh and Peri value the legacy they inherited and see great benefits in organic farming, the choices they have made since taking over the farm reflect a shift in thinking toward a systems health and systems management approach. The changes and their observations of impact have contributed to a sense of renewed hope for the future.
They took over the farm in 2014 after a three-year mentorship with John and Jenny Schwarz, which began in 2011. The Schwarzs began converting to organic farming in the 1990s, and Border Park Organics was fully certified in 1998. Border Park Organics is located in a dry landscape and the dominant soil types are light textured (sands to sandy loams), and well drained, so the efficient use of available water is critical. The McIntoshs learned early on that improving soil health would improve water availability for their crops. The 2018-20 drought was a real challenge for the family, and reinforced their commitment to managing the land and water cycles to prevent soil erosion and enhance nutrient retention.
Josh and Peri have learned that good nutrition is about more than excluding harmful inputs, and they now see a clear connection between healthy food, landscapes and soil. Now with their understanding of a nourishing diet, their approach to cropping has expanded beyond wheat to include a diverse mix of cereals and pulses. They are confident that diversifying what they grow can meet changing consumer appetites.
Today they adjust their ratio between cropping and animals to suit conditions.
For the long term, they recognise there are more opportunities with cropping on their farm, especially when matched with the improvements to soil health they have been making and the long-term potential outcomes from practice change.
The McIntoshs’ approach to farming now involves ‘encouraging growth, no matter what that looks like.’ Instead of always chasing weeds, they now recognise the role of all plants in regenerating soil health, and do this by supporting plant growth. Their three-year rotation includes a cover crop in the second year, in which minerals are added to be assimilated into the soil in time for the following cash crop season. Slashing and grazing of the cover are used to cycle nutrients back to the soil.
Farming at Border Park Organics has thrown many challenges their way, but Josh and Peri are resourceful people, guided by shared values, a strong sense of community and a can-do approach to life. While Josh and Peri value the legacy they inherited and see great benefits in organic farming, the choices they have made since taking over the farm reflect a shift in thinking toward a systems health and systems management approach. The changes and their observations of impact have contributed to a sense of renewed hope for the future.
Ngintait and Ngarkat Country | Taplan, SA
Average annual rainfall
269 mm (1993-2022)
Hot dry summer, cold winter
28 – 58m
Family owned and operated
Organic cropping of dryland grains and pulses (wheat, rye, barley, oats, triticale, peas, hay). Organic self-replacing Poll Hereford beef cattle and self-replacing Merino sheep for wool and fat lambs.
Southern Region (North SA Mallee sub-region)
Plains, rises, and dunes with sparse pockets of remnant mallee vegetation
Various soils including sands and sandy loams containing various forms of calcium carbonate (Calcarosols), gradational loamy sands or sandy loams containing calcium carbonate, but not throughout the profile (Kandosols), and deep calcareous sands (Arenosol previously classified as Tenosols).
The Australian Soil Classification (Isbell & NCST, 2021).
The Border Park Organics story
- Phase 1 - Taking over the farm
- Phase 2 - An integrated system
- Phase 3 - Innovating through challenges
- Phase 4 - Where to now?
Taking over Border Park Organics
Buying their own family farm
Josh and Peri McIntosh married when they were young. They both come from farming families and the couple shared a wish that their seven children would grow up close to the land. When both of their parents sold their farms during the Millennium Drought (2001-2009), it was a devastating loss. After many years of hard work in separate industries, Josh and Peri yearned for a different lifestyle. The opportunity to take over an organic farming property – Border Park Organics – was presented through a family contact. Taking a leap of faith, the McIntoshs moved away from their friends and family to pursue a dream of working together and living a healthier life on a farm, according to their shared values. In 2011, the family moved to South Australia from regional New South Wales.
History of the property
Situated in the Northern Mallee, Border Park Organics is located in a semi-arid region prone to drought and very high summer temperatures. In close proximity to the Murray River, the farm has access to river water, which historically supported market gardens and the export of fresh food by train to the burgeoning city of Adelaide. The legacy of share-farming and the wide layering of enterprises are part of the history of the property.
Border Park Organics has operated as an organic farm for over three decades. Certification was established by John and Jenny Schwarz who began organic trials in 1990. The last herbicide was used in 1994 and the first part of the farm completed conversion and was certified in 1996, with the whole farm area certified in 1998. Border Park Organics adheres to the guidelines set out by organic and biodynamic standards and the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia (NASAA).
Mentorship and non-family succession
Josh and Peri learnt about organic farming through a three-year mentorship with John and Jenny Schwarz, which began in 2011. The agreement ensured ongoing organic certification through NASAA. At the time of non-family succession in 2014, the majority of farming income came from cropping (90%), supplemented with sheep and cattle (10%). The cropping was largely based on three-year cropping rotations, strategically set up across the three main blocks of the farm, including different soil types, elevations and paddock sizes. Rye and four different varieties of wheat were grown, with the wheats on the heavier, better soils and rye on the ridges in the lighter soil. Josh describes the strategy as ‘providing a range’ to what was covered each season so that ‘no matter what way the season rolled out, there was production somewhere’.
The McIntoshs respected the hard work and legacy of John and Jenny Schwarz, and they wanted to continue farming organically. When they took over the property, they decided to farm without commercial debt, as the previous owners had done. Josh and Peri had carried substantial debt in their previous careers, and they both understood the stress and pressure that can come with it. Josh reflects:
Coming here and just accepting a different mindset … we’re going to sell lambs for a couple of years, sell wool and then we can buy that … and being an unreliable climate too – production wise – we’ve seen a lot of people struggle with overdraft and so often that then plays out in the stress of the marriage.
Managing the farm in the first year
Josh began thinking about potential changes to the farming system during his mentorship with John Schwarz. The first clue came from a pasture-cropping trial (based on Colin Seis’ practice), that began in 2009 and Josh contributed to over 2011 and 2012. John Schwarz bought a disc seeder and seeded winter cereal crop straight into a few paddocks that had good summer native grasses. This practice change suggested to Josh that you can potentially ‘make a go of farming without long term fallow’.
A major motivation for Josh and Peri to explore different farming practices came from a growing concern about the long-term viability of the farm based upon the soil profile. When they first became concerned about soil health, they didn’t have a name for it, but Josh would sometimes say that ‘organics is not enough’. They observed problems like soil erosion, but recognise now that neither of them understood the larger set of systemic issues at play. Josh had a ‘product mindset’ informed by his background in engineering and his previous experiences in farming, saying:
We see dust and soil blow away and we think, how can we keep doing this? You don’t get that back. And yet I knew very little about the soil. I’d done Ag College, but it was a different understanding, I guess. Still very products based. What can I buy to fix that problem? Rather than looking at the big system. And still in the mindset that, well, I can’t do much because I don’t have enough money.
During the handover, Josh and Peri questioned what they needed to do to ensure the future of the farm. The pre-existing business was profitable but it gradually became clearer that aspects of their farm ‘management needed to change’. Josh’s fundamental concerns about soil health and long-term viability led him to undertake desktop research to explore solutions:
I just started Googling soil health and trying to understand the problem. I come from an engineering background where we are given problems to solve, and the most important step is understanding what the issues are so we can then look at how to address them.
Josh began to recognise the complexity of soil biology and to see that ‘the more I understood about the soil, the less I understood about soil’. At the same time, Josh was introduced to the work of Dr EIaine Ingham by a friend. He was given a stack of Ingham’s CDs with hours of recorded lectures, and he followed this up with Professor Don Huber and John Kempf’s work. The insights the McIntoshs’ gained through reading, studying and learning about holistic approaches to soil and landscape systems in the early years contributed to a deeper understanding of the soil profile at Border Park Organics, and it helped to build their resilience on the property when facing periods of hardship. It also gave them confidence to begin experimenting with the practice changes they would undertake over the following years.
Approaching the farm as an integrated system
2015 – 2017
The McIntoshs identified early on that improving soil health would come with the benefit of water efficiency for their crops, which was an economic driver given the low annual rainfall and semi-arid farming profile. Over this period, this observation led them to explore methods for turning rain into biomass and innovative ways of keeping moisture in the soil. Early experiments, such as pasture cropping, created the conditions for ongoing experimentation. Their confidence increased seeing signs of the systemic benefit for the farm and longer-term farming cycles.
Pasture cropping trials
During his mentorship, Josh had participated in pasture cropping trials with John Schwarz. They were covering big areas, and in their region of South Australia, the approach worked well in good years. In an average year they could break-even, but quite often they didn’t get their seed back with pasture cropping and it was a time-consuming process. At the time, John and Josh agreed that they were not seeing the kind of consistent results they needed to see from a cropping enterprise.
While pasture cropping wasn’t an entirely successful experiment in terms of grain, it benefitted the livestock and Josh saw potential based on other positive impacts within the larger farming system. For example, they were saving money on diesel because they didn’t work the ground as much. And because they were not leaving soil bare, there were benefits both for the soil and their livestock over time, as Josh notes, ‘pasture cropping spreads enterprises out in effective ways’. Josh began to see a bigger picture that was not focused entirely on the quantity of grain per annum but a longer-term set of benefits that could be both profitable and healthier in essential ways. The benefits they observed after further pasture cropping trials from 2015 onwards were increased native summer grass cover and resulting pasture availability, and reduced wind erosion.
Returning challenging paddocks to native grasses
During the first phase of practice change, Josh and Peri began to question the legitimacy of cropping certain areas within paddocks that had been previously farmed, such as on gypsum ridges and shallow rock. Instead, they saw new value in facilitating the growth of perennial native grasses. From 2015 onwards, they began to leave these areas to native pasture and to utilise them within the livestock cycle, rather than ‘wasting seed’ to plant them out, and expensive diesel to harvest crops not well suited to the conditions. This had multiple benefits, including reducing erosion and saving money on diesel, which is one of their greatest expenses.
Weed management and inter-row cultivation
Josh and Peri inherited an approach to weed management within the cropping routine that involved an opening pass with a one-way disc plough and a long bare fallow in preparation for the next year’s winter crop. The process began in September following a rain event, and would continue in order to keep the weed burden under control until the planting window in late April-May. The aim was to plant quickly to out-compete the weeds. However, multiple passings compromised soil moisture levels and they often didn’t get the clean crop they hoped for. Peri recalls, ‘it just felt like we were fighting this losing battle’.
They began to explore alternative approaches to weed control. One of the first things Josh tried was inter-row cultivation. Josh trialled inter-row cultivation because, ‘everything we had been doing for weed control before was pre-seeding’, and he wanted to find a way to control weeds during the growing season.
Inter-row cultivation required a change from sweeps to points for seeding, so that at a certain stage in plant growth Josh could go through with an inter-row cultivator which they had leased for a couple of years. While these early experiments gave the McIntoshs ‘another tool’ for dealing with weeds, over time, Josh came to think:
Inter-row cultivation is definitely a tool that’d be handy to have, but as something that you rely on as a foundation, it doesn’t work. It’s like the icing on a cake, it’s not what the cake’s made of. And so, it’s back again to the whole system.
As Josh continued to look for alternative approaches to weed management, he was influenced by an organic farmer in the UK, John Pawsey. Pawsey suggested to Josh that ‘you don’t want to be chasing weeds in-crop, you want to be managing to control weeds before you put your crop in’. Pawsey had shifted his own practice from inter-row cultivation, into long lay pasture, lay fallows, and then intensive cultivation. Pawsey’s advice made sense to Josh and he could see how the approach could work for them in the long term. From 2017 onwards, they began to control weeds like rye grass the year before the crop, not in crop, through multispecies cropping, slashing and grazing.
Mixed cover crops for seed production, ground cover and soil health
In 2017, the McIntoshs began trialling mixed cover crops for the seed market, seeing potential in terms of diversifying to include mixes suitable for dairy feed ration and mixed cover crop seed. Based on their observations of increasing customer demand, their plan was to supply to the growing market. During this period, they explored possibilities for separating and preparing ratios that particular customers need. For example, in their “H2” paddock they sewed peas and oats in together, and harvested this in 2017 with great success as cover crop seed mixes.
Shifting from a disc plough to a disc chain
In 2017, Josh decided to move away from using a disc plough and began to work instead with a disc chain. Using a disc chain allowed them to ‘prepare ground quicker, which meant we didn’t have to start so early’. At Border Park, the ‘timing of tillage operations is critical’ and shifting to a disc chain allowed Josh to prepare soil at a rate three times quicker than their previous range of machines, as it could be done in one pass instead of three passes over several weeks, when conditions were optimal. While the depth of tillage was shallow, the aggressiveness of the tillage action could be controlled to suit the conditions better. Using a disc chain conserved moisture after tillage better than any other machine they had, and it induced a vibrant germination of seeds in the surface without burying the seed below germination depth.
One of Josh’s favourite observations of the immediate changes to soil after the disc chain was seeing the activity when the bulk was mixed back into the shallow surface layer of soil. Because they are only working two inches deep, Josh noticed:
Right where the activity is, it’s warm, it’s moist and the microbes just go crazy in that. And even though it’s working intensely, it’s mixing all that stuff together and it’s like a paper mâché type consistency rather than it being fine and dusty and blowing away. It’s kind of counterintuitive to me that we’re working more intensely but we’re getting more wind resilience with that method. And a greater sort of protection I guess from the heat too like summer. The soil temperatures are really high if you’ve got bare fallow.
The disc chain could feed mature plant matter to the soil to prevent it oxidising, and the disc chain finish was like a garden mulch instead of a bare fallow because the surface matter is not mixed deep but concentrated in the top 40 to 60 mm.
The McIntoshs were also observing longer term benefits from the disc chain. Firstly, the disc chain enabled better overall weed control. When using it on grazing land, Josh noticed that it ‘reset’ the species mix from ‘woody perennial dominance to a strong stand of palatable species like medic and ryegrass’, which were not seeded, but grew from naturalised seed. An added benefit was the proliferation of native grasses in the following spring that began to grow from seedlings and from deeper undisturbed native grass crowns that survived the shallow tillage.
Innovating through challenges
2018 – 2021
Between 2018 and 2021, Josh and Peri faced many unforeseen challenges, including severe drought (2018-2020), hail, a lack of funds and the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought significant change to markets. These major barriers and setbacks tested the McIntoshs’ resolve. Josh and Peri experimented with diverse practice changes over this period, which offered rich learning opportunities and supported innovation.
Experimenting with inputs: biologicals, biostimulants and foliars
The McIntoshs experimented with a range of products and home-made inputs, including composts, liquids and seed coatings. They started with liquids and formulating foliar sprays, informed by Elaine Ingham and John Kempf, to understand how plant roots were interacting with the soil through biology. Based on what he was learning, Josh trialled worm juice followed by worm castings. They used pelletised worm castings in 2018 to put a rye crop in along with the seed, but there was so little rain that season, Josh recalls:
The whole season the pelletised worm castings stayed as a pellet form up near the surface, and there wasn’t enough moisture for the plant to access that fertiliser.
Josh has since observed that with rainfall, pelletised worm castings are ‘good stuff’, as long as it cycles through and is accessible to the germinating plant. While experimenting with worm-based products, they also began brewing their own biostimulant liquid inoculants. The liquid was a broad-spectrum soil microbe, including plant symbionts and inoculates mixed in an aerated, temperature-controlled brewing tank. At this time, Josh was thinking of broad-spectrum liquids as a way to introduce food for soil biology (rather than chemistry for plant nutrition), and they used this liquid both as a seed-coating and in-furrow liquid injection.
Slashing and grazing to manage plant growth phases and feed soil
In 2018, the McIntoshs wanted to improve the balance between their cover blends and cash crops. Their best biomass-producing cover blends were predominantly either triticale and peas, or rye and vetch. All of these species need to be terminated properly to avoid subsequent cash crop contamination. The McIntoshs couldn’t carry enough livestock to graze the cover crop effectively because they run their animals without supplemental feeding, preferring grain-free pasture, and they were cautious in managing numbers to avoid damage to the land. They needed to find a way to ensure all the cover crops were properly terminated, so they slashed a mixed-species cover crop and grazed the regrowth after the slashed bulk had mostly broken down into the soil. This method increased biomass production, provided ground cover, reduced problematic seed set and also benefited the livestock. The McIntoshs found that slashing with optimal timing stopped seed set of the cover crop species, and that grazing could then be used effectively to tidy up late heads and regrowth.
Josh also slashed volunteer non-palatable perennials to promote more growth and used them as a soil builder. This would add a layer of mulch on the soil surface after soil builder as a way to feed soil microbes. He began to find that ‘even the slashed material can oxidise too much and not assimilate with soil as much as I’d like’, so he began to also consider trying a ‘spray application’ of a microbial based solution combined with a ‘spiked disc chain pass to lightly incorporate the material to promote better microbial breakdown of the slashed material’.
Dry vs wet planting
An important consideration at this time involved the timing of plantings – before or after rain – and these decisions overlapped their efforts to find effective weed management alternatives. Josh recalls how, ‘we needed to build up what we were working into, and what we were expecting to grow into’, and to develop a ‘bigger sponge’ in their soil profile with greater capacity for water retention, which is something they have worked on since.
Avoiding costly investments in equipment
Over this period, Josh and Peri learnt how to utilise the equipment they had available on farm, they made changes to existing equipment, and they leased and bought equipment as one-off investments. Peri reflects:
We can’t just rely on one type of seeder or one type of spreader or whatever. We have seen that because the years are so variable and our soils are so variable and the different seeds that we’re doing, we need to have a very diverse range of equipment.
Equipment and facilities are generally a significant cost in cropping. Josh and Peri’s decisions often came down to prioritising what was manageable and financially viable given they were only spending what they had available as savings. Peri is grateful they didn’t get ‘locked into a certain set of practices’ because they didn’t invest heavily in products or equipment early on (a common challenge for farmers). In hindsight, Josh and Peri now know more precisely what they need to invest in, and they didn’t go into debt buying equipment they don’t use. This approach kept them agile and responsive to changing circumstances.
Financial benchmarking through a federal program
The McIntoshs were struggling with lower production and profit during the severe drought of 2018-20. They heard about a government funded opportunity to work with a business analyst, and decided to approach them. In 2020, they established a benchmark for farm finances and planning for a five-year trajectory. Gaining greater knowledge and clarity about their finances was affirmative and hopeful because they discovered that they were in a relatively strong position, despite the challenges they have faced. The outcome built their confidence in terms of where to invest their energy because it confirmed the importance of building soil health. According to Josh, the process ‘all pointed to soil health, which was really good’.
Where to now?
2022 – ongoing
The main enterprises at Border Park Organics continue to be cropping, sheep and cattle. Levels of production are variable, as Josh suggests ‘anything from 1000 tonnes of grain to nothing, depending how the season goes’, with 300-400 breeding ewes and 25-40 breeding cattle. The McIntoshs shift their ratio between cropping and animals to suit conditions, and for the long term they recognise there are more opportunities with cropping on their farm, especially when matched with the improvements to soil health that they have been making and the long-term potential of this. Wheat is still the highest yield and income from cereals; however, they are looking at market changes and different customer demands, and trying to diversify where possible.
Whole farm management decisions
Their current three-year rotation is the same allocation of paddocks as when they started farming, but now includes a cover crop in the second pasture year to produce biomass. Minerals added in the cover crop phase are assimilated with the soil for the following cash crop season. Slashing and grazing of the cover crops are then used to cycle nutrients back to the soil. Josh’s intention is to have seed mixes ready to seed whenever they have moisture for summer or winter plants to establish, even if they don’t mature. The McIntoshs continue to use slashing because they can’t carry enough livestock to graze effectively. If they traded livestock, Josh thinks they could potentially apply enough grazing pressure and:
Trading would closer mimic the transitory nature of grazing wildlife in this climate rather than trying to carry breeders through the feed gaps in mid-winter and late summer. However, trading is challenging under organic management.
Therefore, the change to trading instead of closed breeding of sheep and cattle is something that may happen in future, but Josh also says, it ‘hurts to think of saying goodbye to my ewes and cows though’.
Josh has begun a two-year rotation trial in one paddock of:
• Year 1 warm-season spring: cover seeded with minerals and liquid during ripping
• Year 1 warm-season autumn: cover disc-seeded
• Year 1 cool-season: cover disc seeded into the residue of the previous summer cover
• Year 1 spring: slash to provide protective soil cover during summer
• Year 2 winter: cash crop under-seeded with a warm season spring cover that can establish after harvest if there is rain.
The McIntoshs hope to apply a two-year rotation across the whole-farm in the future and will closely observe the trial to see how to viably capture every potential growing opportunity. Josh says, ‘these covers don’t need to do more than establish, receive the foliars and maintain habitat for microbes’ and he is counting on suppression by cover crops to reduce ryegrass seed set.
Seed dressings and bio-stimulants
The McIntoshs have mostly transitioned away from using off-the-shelf seed dressings towards working to understand ‘better what a particular seed needs, what chemicals, stimulants or minerals that plant needs to connect with the soil’. Bio-stimulants in the seed dressing have been really important to stimulate and facilitate the connection between the seed and the soil because ‘that’s where it’s all got to start’. As Josh sees it, having a basic understanding of a plant’s needs is the first necessary step to having an influence on growth and productivity through nutrients, minerals and bio-stimulants:
In terms of regeneration, the things that give us the best outcomes in terms of soil health are actually not expensive at all. Like cover crop seeds that we can source off farm and biology that we can multiply in our brewing tank. And then mineral seed dressing, they’re a few dollars a hectare […] It really is very economical.
When treating seeds, they use a bio-stimulant ratio made locally by a producer who supplies 1000 litre batches. They use an auger, with a 1000 litre shuttle, 12-volt vane pump, a garden hose with garden socket on top of the auger, about a meter up from the bottom. They stick the hose on and run the pump and auger to produce about 15 litres a ton of seed, which they run out of the silo. This ratio works and is based on their measurement and calibration to 15 litres per ton. This approach to seed dressing has been very successful, and when they do small seed sales to organic orchards and vineyards, people are often grateful if the seed has already been coated because it gives them a better kickstart.
Detailed records for decision-making
Josh and Peri’s general approach to cropping now involves balancing flexibility with a lot of mindful preparation, building on their past experiences and observations to inform their current and future decision making. Logistically they need enough of a pattern to be able to plan, prepare and know where they’re heading, while also running a set of rotations that can be changed at the last minute if needed:
It is like you have started with an open slate, and then something happens, so you get an early rain, and that shifts all the late rain options off the table, and you’re left with all the early rain options, and then the next thing might happen. You might get a big summer rain, and that shifts half of that options off the table, and so, as the season goes on, it narrows down to an optimum outcome at the end which we go with.
Josh is a meticulous record keeper, and he attributes his ability to manage the farm successfully to his close observations of changes over time. Drawing from observations over the past 10 years, Josh has developed a rule of thumb he applies to the timing of planting. It helps him to recognise patterns and takes some of the guess work out of decisions.
Josh uses his rule of thumb to help guide the timing of weed control passes before seeding. By his estimation, the minimum amount of rain that needs to fall on disc chained ground for the majority of ryegrass to germinate and for enough moisture to remain after 100 hrs is about 4mm. Once Josh has measured 4 mm of rain, he waits 100 hours (4 days and 4 hours) before cultivating. Cultivating sooner doesn’t kill all the weeds and cultivating later means the ground is too dry and will become susceptible to wind erosion. The rule needs to be adjusted slightly for temperature and wind conditions, and gives Josh ‘go’ / ‘no-go’ parameters, as he describes:
I’ve looked back over how paddocks have responded to my timing and to the amount of rain, and I’ve worked out you need a hundred hours to get a germination enough, that you will then reduce that germination by working it rather than induce it.
Farming for a nutritious diet
Even though wheat is their highest yield and income from cereals, Josh and Peri are exploring moving away from solidly milling wheat. This decision is based on their understanding of a nutritious diet (for both human and animal consumption). Peri explains, healthy diets need:
A range of things, and probably that’s been mirrored in the way we’ve shifted to what we grow now, with more legumes, rye, barley and oats. More of a blend of things than just focusing on milling wheat.
They are watching market changes and customer demand to help inform their decisions around diversifying to more dairy feed or mixed cover crop seed. There are many opportunities to explore and they are well connected and open to possible changes in operations and modes of distribution.
Encouraging growth, no matter what
A deeper understanding of soil health has led the McIntoshs to recognise that plant growth is key, as ‘growth produces growth’. The way the McIntoshs encourage plant growth now reflects their deeper understanding of the differences between effective management decisions and quick-fix inputs. This comes down to appropriate times for action and the flow-on effects of specific decisions in terms of plant growth and larger cycles. As Josh suggests, these are the ‘little ways that I can control or manage an outcome, on management rather than input, doing the same thing, just at different times’. Josh continues to refine his knowledge and appreciation of plants and plant succession. There are subtle practice changes that he is undertaking on the land based on his closer understanding of the plant-soil microbiome, and accumulated observations of plant succession, and an overall aim now to support soils regenerating themselves, through plant growth.
Adaptive management, mixed-enterprise and community building
Looking ahead, Josh and Peri would like to find ways to overcome the production challenges they face due to volatile climate and markets. Finding adaptive management approaches that enable the funding of soil health improvements will be key to their ongoing farming business. An enterprise-layered farm is their ideal, however they see this as an ‘aspiration point’ currently and something to slowly work towards. They have explored possibilities of stacking enterprises and bringing more people back onto the land to collaborate in new opportunities and to build up the local farming community.
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