Since 2011, Soils for Life has been publishing case studies of farmers’ inspiring stories of transition from conventional farming practice to regenerating their soils and landscapes and to share learnings and insights of innovative, adaptive approaches to agricultural land management. Through these case studies we have been demonstrating broad principles for building natural capital (as well as building profitability and resilience) but also demonstrating that adaptive approaches informed by the local context and conditions is crucial.
Case study aims
- Enable and facilitate to support farmer groups and peer-to-peer mentoring to support adoption of regenerative practices
- Build capacity and knowledge to enable adoption of farming practices using key principles which underpin the regeneration of soils and landscapes
- Broker relationships and knowledge sharing, including contributing data and potential research and monitoring sites for research partners, and increase understanding of local, on-ground agricultural landscape regeneration efforts and successes
Evolution of the case studies; a group approach
As of July 2021, we have added a new dimension to our case studies; working with groups of farmers through a participatory action research approach. This is an important shift for a number of reasons. Firstly, we recognise that innovation for regenerating soils starts with farmer “boots on the ground” and it is generally a social process shared with colleagues and neighbours. Secondly, this mitigates the focus on an individual farm family or manager and provides a broader range of experiences. Thirdly, the case study program will now provide active support to groups to assist them to address a key challenge or issue.
As awareness and understanding of soil and landscape regeneration in agriculture and its potential for landscape renewal and profitable and productive systems has grown, Soils for Life are now building on our case study design to better understand and address opportunities and barriers to adoption of such principles and practices by the wider farming community. In particular, we are interested to explore the role of social innovation, communities of practice and peer-to-peer mentoring in generating positive change.
What will a group case study look like?
This case study group approach will present holistic and integrated examples of farmers’ transformation towards resilient and productive agricultural systems. The case studies will continue to focus on ecological, social and economic factors and change, particularly looking at the importance of peer-to-peer support. Each group case study will consist of stories about the group as well as individual farmer stories and outcomes.
The action research will be co-designed with the participants in each group, to enable them to be equal partners in the process, and to ensure we take into account the questions, concerns and challenges which are important to the participants. In particular, we pose the following questions;
- How can communities of practice/peer-to-peer mentoring groups be established and maintained to foster and facilitate systemic change to regenerate soils and landscapes and build resilience and profitability of farm enterprises.
- What are the key barriers to change for agricultural land managers?
- How can farmers effectively self-monitor their soils and ecosystems and use this information to influence decision-making?
- What does adaptive management for soil and ecosystem regeneration look like in different agro-climatic and social ecological regions / systems?
We work with participants to collect a range of information regarding the process of change for the regeneration of soils and landscapes to build producer resilience and profitability. This may include site visits, workshops, interviews, collection of existing data as well as visual and audio information.
We hope that the group and individual stories of change informs and inspires other landholders who are wanting to implement change. For this reason, we conduct field days, produce webinars and or podcast and produce a range of publications and communications to provide relevant, credible and timely information to support farmers, policy makers and researchers.
This project is supported by Soils for Life, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.