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Liz Clarke, CEO

The big international news this month has been the Glasgow Climate Conference. I won’t go into the details of the negotiations – there is plenty written elsewhere about this – but I would like to draw your attention to the fact that, for the first time, rebuilding healthy soils was on the agenda.

Our Board chair, Alasdair Macleod (also Executive Chair of the Macdoch Foundation and the Farming for the Future program), put healthy soils front and centre at the Glasgow COP, when he presented at the Global Landscapes Forum on the importance of soil carbon capture in agricultural soils as an important contribution to mitigating the impacts of climate change. Soils for Life also had a booth in the Australia Pavilion in Glasgow.

Not only is building carbon in soil important for drawing carbon out of the atmosphere, it also has an important role in improving soil structure, water holding capacity and nutrient cycling, increasing biological activity and creating more productive and biodiverse landscapes, which are more resilient to drought, flood and fire.

Closer to home, easing of COVID restrictions has meant that Soils for Life staff have been able to get their boots on the soil again. In early November, we travelled out to Bokhara Plains in the NSW Rangelands as part of our role in the Rangelands Living Skin project and also to film part of our upcoming film on Soil Health.

Graham and Cathy Finlayson’s innovative approach to regenerating claypans will be a feature of our film. Previously nothing grew on these claypans and the clay crust on the top meant water just runs off and doesn’t soak in. Through a process of ripping and ponding, vegetation is gradually returning to these areas, starting with colonising species and progressing to become diverse and productive pasture. The Finlaysons’ daughter Harriet has returned home to the farm and has started a new enterprise — pasture-raised rangelands poultry. This complements the time-controlled grazing of cattle and provides a second source of income, as well as fresh eggs and poultry meat for surrounding districts. It is exciting to see the new generation of young, enthusiastic and innovative farmers returning to the land.

We also filmed at Rhonda and Bill Daley’s farm, Milgadara. Rhonda and Bill have transformed their farm to an integrated, biological mixed farming system. As part of this, they have established a successful compost business, supplying products as well as training farmers to do their own composting. Rhonda shares her expertise in our latest podcast on compost, in which we cover everything from the importance of compost feedstock, to the various ways in which compost or compost products can be used in farming systems. Most importantly, the episode talks about the critical role that compost can play in regenerating soils and enhancing farm productivity.

And despite the challenges of the past year, we are thrilled to release the first instalment of our 8 families case study. This is our first group-based case study and we have absolutely loved collaborating with this amazing and inspiring group of producers from the southern slopes of NSW. As always we aim to weave together inspiring stories with sound evidence.

Finally, a heads up that World Soil Day is next Sunday 5 December. To celebrate this important day, we are co-hosting a breakfast for the Parliamentary Friends of Soil to continue to raise awareness of the importance of rebuilding healthy soils. In addition, World Soil Day marks the launch of our Christmas Fundraising Appeal – donations will help us support more land managers in their work of regenerating soils and landscapes.

Finally I would like to thank two of our Board Directors who are retiring this month – Michael Moore AM and Major-General John Hartley for their dedicated voluntary work with Soils for Life, their wise council will be greatly missed.

I would also like to thank our volunteer, Amanda Hirschfeld who is finishing up her work with us this month. Amanda has been of invaluable assistance to us at the Soils for Life office, overseeing operations and particularly helping us with our move to our new office (note we have a new address). Amanda’s warmth and efficiency will be greatly missed in the office.

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