As 2020 draws to a close the dramatic events of this year have highlighted the urgent need to build greater resilience to shocks and stresses to our agricultural systems (as well as our social-ecological systems more generally).
At Soils for Life, we have had to substantially pause our case study program and associated activities during COVID-19 (with associated border closures and travel bans etc). We anticipate ramping up these activities early in the New Year, along with our other project commitments, such as the new Rangelands Living Skin project with NSW DPI, which will focus on soil regenerative practices and farmer innovation and peer mentoring processes.
2021 will be an exciting year for us, with a range of new initiatives planned as part of our ongoing support to Australian farmers in regenerating soils and landscapes. We have just released our interim Strategic Framework, which is a high level outline of our role, mission and core activities. A full strategic plan will be released in 2021.
It is a pleasure to be able to end the year by releasing our new reports on Winona, providing the latest instalment in Colin Seis’ regenerative journey, highlighting growing profitability, landscape and soil health, and resilience of the property.
The Soils For Life team wish you all health and happiness – and hopefully some relaxation! -over the Christmas holiday period. Our office will be closed from 21 December 2020 until 4 January 2021. We are looking forward to an exciting and prosperous new year.
The past two months have been hectic in the Soils For Life office as we pull together a new strategy to align our focus to support Australian farmers in regenerating soils and landscapes. We are also looking at how we ensure our case study process and engage in new projects in 2021 that help us to support landholders to build natural and social capital and transform the food system.
In the past year, Soils For Life is one of the three organisations involved in the establishment of a Parliamentary Friends of Soil group along with lead organisation, the Soil CRC and Soil Science Australia. The first meeting of the non-partisan group co-chaired by Michael McCormack and Linda Burney at Old Parliament House on 4th December, just ahead of World Soils Day. The new National Soil Advocate Penelope Wensley addressed the meeting, along with Minister David Littleproud. Ministers Sussan Ley and Angus Taylor also attended along with a broad range of key partners in involved in soil research and management.
Saturday 5 December is World Soils Day. This day, championed by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, is a reminder of the fundamental importance of soils which support all terrestrial life and without which we cannot survive.
September has seen a steep rise in the profile of regenerative agriculture as the stories of some pioneering farmers have been told in the mainstream media. Australian Story featuring Charles Massy and his regenerative journey aired this week (available for viewing on ABC iView) and a documentary highlighting the importance of soils and regenerative agriculture “Kiss the Ground” was recently released on Netflix. Not only this, the Tony Coote Memorial Lecture was delivered by Alan Savory and is now online for those who missed it.
In addition, portraits of two Soils For Life case study farmers were entered into the Archibald prize this year: Sacha Pola’s portrait of Martin Royds titled “The Regenerator” and Lucy Culliton’s oil on canvas portrait of Charlie Maslin titled “Soils For Life”. Congratulations to Lucy (and Charlie!) for being selected as finalists.
A little removed from the media spotlight, the Hon. Penny Wensley was appointed as the new National Soil Advocate this month. She will continue the work done by the Hon Major General Michael Jeffery advocating for the health of Australia’s agricultural landscapes and soils.
On a different note, thank you to everyone who participated in our communications and engagement survey this month. You provided us with such valuable insights that will help us strengthen our work to keep regenerative agriculture in the spotlight well into the future.
the Soils For Life newsletter – my first as the new CEO. I am very excited to
have the opportunity to lead Soils For Life and focus on the important work of
supporting farmers in their journey along the various pathways which lead to regenerative
joined the organisation at both a challenging and an exciting time. On one
hand, COVID-19 is still creating massive challenges globally and many
Australians continue to deal with the consequences of drought, fire and now
floods. On the other hand, these crises are fueling the growing awareness of,
and appetite for, regenerative approaches, not just in agriculture, but in many
other fields of resource-based activity where building resilience is crucial.
In light of
this, we (at Soils For Life) are reflecting on our history, evaluating our
impact and thinking hard about our future priorities and strategy, to ensure we
leverage opportunities to deliver on our mandate.
welcome your support and input to this process. There are a number of ways in
which we will invite your input. As a first step, I invite you to participate
in our stakeholder engagement strategy. This is the first of a number of
initiatives we are undertaking to better understand needs and opportunities
from your perspective as our stakeholders. We also welcome your feedback through the feedback form on our website.
Our talented and enthusiastic team are continuing their work on the Soils For Life regenerative agriculture case studies, and at the same time reviewing our approach and refining the ways in which we make this information available to you. We’ve recently conducted training for the team to strengthen the way soils are represented in our case studies. The team are also continuing to work on a suite of information resources around regenerative agriculture topics. This month we’ve published some lessons from our case studies around how to grow soil organic matter.
Again, your feedback is welcome and we look forward to hearing from you.
Soils For Life is delighted to announce the appointment of Dr Elizabeth (Liz) Clarke as our new CEO .
Liz will bring with her considerable skills in leadership and management of projects in Australia and internationally, as well as previous experience in multiple roles as a researcher, educator, policy advisor and mentor. Liz currently holds visiting fellowships at ANU’s Fenner School of Environment and Society and the Institute for Land, Water and Society at CSU as well as being an independent consultant. She also holds a PhD in Human Ecology.
“Liz has wide experience in many different parts of the world,” says Chair of the Soils For Life Board, Alasdair Macleod. “Her strong academic record and her recent experience in project and program management for the Australian government, as well as internationally, make her a great person to lead Soils For Life into our next phase.”
Growing up in a farming family, Liz is a passionate advocate for regenerative agriculture. “I am driven by a deep desire to bring about meaningful change for people, food production systems, and landscapes,” she says. “I have a passionate interest and personal commitment to regenerative agriculture, combined with a lifetime of involvement in various aspects of agriculture, sustainability, and natural resource management.”
Based in Canberra, Liz will start with Soils For Life at the beginning of August. “I’m very excited to be taking on this new and exciting challenge in this important field,” she says.