End for year message from CEO

Happy Holidays from the Soils For Life team!

The Soils For Life Team
Some members of the Soils For Life team: (L-R) Richard Thackway, Kirsty Yeates, James Diack, Rebecca Palmer-Brodie, Narelle Luff, Liz Clarke, Mark Parsons, Jen Richards, Paris Capell.

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.  

We’ve had a great response to our Project and Outreach Manager job advertisement (advertised in the last newsletter), and there’s still a little more time to apply with applications closing on 24 December 2020. In addition, we are also about to advertise for a Communications and Engagement Manager to complement our team.

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.

Liz Clarke CEO

Message from Liz Clarke, CEO of Soils For Life

Message from Liz Clarke, CEO of Soils For Life

Soils For Life CEO Liz Clarke at the Parliamentary Friends of Soil meeting with Michael Crawford and David Littleproud.

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.


Message from Liz Clarke, CEO of Soils For Life

Message from Liz Clarke, CEO of Soils For Life

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.


Report from the new CEO, Dr Liz Clarke

Message from the new CEO, Dr Liz Clarke

Welcome to 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 agriculture.

I have 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.

I strongly 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.


Acting CEO’s Report

Report from Acting CEO, Narelle Luff

Acting CEO, Narelle Luff.

This month our scientists have spent time out on regenerative properties in New South Wales and Queensland. In the coming months we will develop these into new case studies. In these new case studies, we will introduce soil testing to our assessments and expect these to add further strength to our comprehensive case study reports. This month we reintroduce you to Rothesay and highlight some exciting work that is occurring in the area.

We hope you are enjoying the education articles we have been preparing, this month we have an article about managing African Lovegrass. If you missed last month’s education topics here are links to articles we published last month on water management and measuring bird diversity.

This week we held the first of three Australia-China Soil Organic Carbon Measurement webinars. This is a collaborative webinar program with the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences focused on the importance of organic carbon for healthy soils and methodologies and technologies for measuring soil organic carbon across agricultural landscapes. This webinar program brings together leading Australian and Chinese soil scientists and associated experts in remote sensing technologies and big data to exchange knowledge and discuss potential scientific collaboration. We will share the recordings of these webinars as they become available. If you are interested in participating in these webinars please register your interest via admin@soilsforlife.org.au

Our friends across regen ag have been busy producing some great quality podcasts and webinars, we have collated them for you here. We are also pleased to link you to some important work by the Academy of Science on Soil condition after bushfires, this is part of a series which will also look at wildlife recovery, ecosystems and human health.

Lastly I would like to welcome Liz Clarke our new CEO on board. Liz starts in August but is already building relationships with a range of Soils For Life stakeholders.

Narelle Luff

Operations Manager / Acting CEO