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Media release: Drought and climate on the agenda

Farmers come together for national soil summit |  27 September 2023

A two-day national soil summit designed to bring more than 50 leading Australian farmers and soil-focused organisations together will take place next month. 

As El Nino again threatens the nation’s agricultural sector, the 120-strong cohort will meet to discuss how to support wider adoption of regenerative farming practices, strategies to future-proof agriculture and address the nation’s most pressing environmental challenges.

Soils for Life, an independent, non-profit organisation that works to support Australian farmers to regenerate soils and landscapes, will host the two-day summit on 10th and 11th October – to celebrate the 10th anniversary of its founding by former Governor General Major General The Honourable Michael Jeffery AC, CVO, MC.

Soils for Life CEO Eli Court said that Soils for Life has compiled a suite of more than 50 in-depth case studies of innovative farmers from around the country, many of whom will  attend the summit to discuss what they’ve learned on their journey to regenerative production.

“Regenerative agriculture is all about working with natural systems rather than against them. Our case study farmers have found ways to produce food and fibre that also rebuild soil and landscape diversity and function, allowing them to reduce their reliance on costly inputs, increase resilience to extreme weather, and deliver more stable profits.”

“The case studies show that there are regenerative practices suited to any climate, from semi-arid rangelands to broadacre cropping areas and high-rainfall intensive use zones. We know it works for the farmers, for their businesses and for the environment, ” Mr Court said. 

Taking place at Cavan Station, a historic Australian grazing property on the outskirts of Yass, 120 guests including farmers, impact investors, and soil and natural resource management organisations will come together to share success stories from around Australia, participate in discussions on the future of regenerative farming, and plan how best to support the increasing numbers of farmers wanting to adopt practices that build soil and landscape health and resilience.

Chairman of Soils for Life, Alasdair Macleod, said that Australian farmers are leading the way on solutions to some of agriculture’s biggest global challenges. 

“Declining soil and landscape health are impacting agricultural systems right across the world. But there is no silver bullet. To deliver the transformative change global agriculture needs, farmers require local solutions that are relevant to their production systems, their climate, and their landscape. And on that front, Australian farmers are leading the way.”

“I’m excited to attend the Summit and learn from the farmers who are proving that local solutions – when added together – can deliver meaningful change in soil and landscape health.” 

Drought experience

Martin Royds runs ‘Jillamatong’, a grazing property in the Southern Tablelands of NSW. When he took over running the third-generation family farm in 1985, Mr Royds introduced big changes to repair land that had been poorly managed and degraded. 

“We needed to change how we ran the place because input costs were going up and we needed to adapt to the changing effects of climate – not just climate change, but droughts and wildfire,” Mr Royds said.

“I come from a long family line of farmers, but being the third generation to manage this land, I wanted to strike the balance between carrying on tradition and family practices, while responding to a changing environment and being profitable and sustainable in the long-term.

“Regenerative farming has completely transformed how we operate, namely around building resilience.

“Regenerative farming is a win for the natural environment and a win for producers just like myself who want to continue to do what we love for generations to come.”

Fast facts

NSW case study

  • Martin Royds, Jillamatong
  • Enterprise: Prime lamb, cattle, garlic, truffles, yabbies
  • Property size: 457 hectares
  • Average annual rainfall: 655mm
  • Elevation: 650-750 m
  • Motivation for change: Reducing input costs and increasing productivity
  • Innovations: 
    • Holistic management techniques
    • Restored eroded areas
    • Vastly improved water quality through development of chain of ponds
    • Improved soil nutrients and soil carbon
    • Sustained high levels of reproductive potential of pastures
    • The maintenance of consistently high levels of ground cover in summer and in winter.
  • Key results:
    • 60% reduction in costs compared to the average farm
    • 230% higher profitability than the average farm between 2005 and 2014
    • Improved resilience to extreme weather
    • Satisfaction across all levels
  • Click here for more NSW case studies 

Soils for Life Summit

  • Date: Tuesday, 10 October – Wednesday, 11 October 
  • Location: Cavan Station, NSW
  • Sessions/highlights: Drivers of change, mindset shifts, barriers to adoption, from high rainfall grazing to cropping and beyond, who’s doing what in regenerative agriculture, workshopping future collaborations
  • Photographic exhibition by British soil ecologist and macro photographer Frank Ashwood 
  • Open-fire catering, using produce from regenerative farms

Soils for Life partners

  • Sustainable Table
  • Open Food Network
  • Soil CRC
  • Yass Area Landcare Network
  • NRM Regions Australia

For more information

If you have any questions, get in touch at [email protected]

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