Located around the Eastern Riverina in NSW, the ‘8 families’ group first formed in 2008 after attending the same Holistic Management course in Holbrook.  Over the last decade, the 8 families have become a strong community of practice for regenerative farming, and continue to help each other make major changes in managing their landscapes and their businesses. This story demonstrates what is possible when regenerative farmers sharing the same landscape come together to support one another.

The 8 families

Spring Creek

Kate and Jochem Heijse are regenerating their farm to create a beautiful ecosystem that’s good for humans, livestock and the myriad of native animals and insects that live on the farm.

Bibbaringa

Gill has owned Bibbaringa north of Albury since 2007. She is focused on rebuilding soil, slowing the flow of water through the landscape and producing healthy nutrient rich beef.

Mundarlo

Nick and Deanna are passionate about running a resilient and profitable farm, while having having enough time to spend with the family. They have diversified into off-farm enterprises and cattle trading and are now consistently making a profit.

Willowlee

Michael, Ellie and their three children own Willowlee, home of Old Man Creek Grass Fed Bulls. They have improved a degraded block, making the world a better place one bite at a time.

Bellvue

Sam and Prue produce grass fed beef and genuine free range eggs. They shifted from conventional farming to Holistic Management, working along side nature to a goal based decision making framework.

Yabtree West

Rebecca Gorman’s family love sharing and challenging their ideas and are passionate about grass and building the soil through holistic management and natural sequence farming. They also run a beef breeding and trading business.

Yammacoona

Bill and Joy are passionate custodians of their land. Their work is about ‘regeneration, renewal and revitalisation of the the land’ and the ‘human environment’ in which they live.

Trewalla

Pete and Bundle Lawson are continuing their families’ long history of farming, improving the health and productivity of their properties so their children can enjoy the challenge of taking them on.

The 8 families

Spring Creek

Kate and Jochem Heijse are regenerating their farm to create a beautiful ecosystem that’s good for humans, livestock and the myriad of native animals and insects that live on the farm.

Bibbaringa

Gill has owned Bibbaringa north of Albury since 2007. She is focused on rebuilding soil, slowing the flow of water through the landscape and producing healthy nutrient rich beef.

Mundarlo

Nick and Deanna are passionate about running a resilient and profitable farm, while having having enough time to spend with the family. They have diversified into off-farm enterprises and cattle trading and are now consistently making a profit.

Willowlee

Michael, Ellie and their three children own Willowlee, home of Old Man Creek Grass Fed Bulls. They have improved a degraded block, making the world a better place one bite at a time.

Bellvue

Sam and Prue produce grass fed beef and genuine free range eggs. They shifted from conventional farming to Holistic Management, working along side nature to a goal based decision making framework.

Yabtree West

Rebecca Gorman’s family love sharing and challenging their ideas and are passionate about grass and building the soil through holistic management and natural sequence farming. They also run a beef breeding and trading business.

Yammacoona

Bill and Joy are passionate custodians of their land. Their work is about ‘regeneration, renewal and revitalisation of the the land’ and the ‘human environment’ in which they live.

Trewalla

Pete and Bundle Lawson are continuing their families’ long history of farming, improving the health and productivity of their properties so their children can enjoy the challenge of taking them on.

The story of the 8 families group

Farming Individually

Seeking a different way

Prior to joining the group each of the 8 families were seeking an alternative framework to conventional farming. In particular, they were looking for ways to avoid the worst impacts of drought: including soil loss, water shortage and the financial burden of buying feed to keep animals alive.

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Forming a Group

Shared commitment and accountability

The group formed following a Holistic Management training course in 2008 which many of the future members attended. It moved from informal get-togethers to regular meetings with a shared sense of commitment and accountability. The group began to consult one another on major decisions, and explored opportunities to pool resources, while building increasingly strong and trusting friendships.

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Working Together

A brains trust for decision making

As the group developed, its value as a source of invaluable advice on key decisions became increasingly evident. This was enabled by the physical proximity of the families, which allowed for regular meetings and the development of a shared understanding of where each family and business is at. Support and encouragement was also important, helping members to have the courage and self-belief to follow their convictions in the face of scepticism and local traditions and even opposition from family or neighbours.

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Evolving & Adapting

The group has evolved in many ways over the years. Group meeting agendas and processes have been constantly adjusted to ensure they remain relevant and practical, supported by a shared willingness to raise and resolve issues and concerns. A range of decision-making frameworks are used, and the group works together to progress their learning through guest-speakers, field trips in Australia and abroad, and ongoing training. They have now begun sharing resources such as contractors, bulls, agistment, and machinery.

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Reaping the rewards

Over the past decade, the 8 families have seen improvements in profitability, animal health, and the environment. Members noted improvements in their sense of personal wellbeing, as well as evidence of regeneration of their landscapes. They believe involvement in the group has been an important enabler for these positive changes.

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Looking Forward

Beyond the boundary fence, advocating for change and supporting others

Looking to the future, the group are looking to better quantify and value the changes they’ve made and continue to make, including through accessing land stewardship programs and schemes, individually and potentially as a collective, with support from Soils for Life. The group believes that ‘the pendulum is swinging’ on regenerative agriculture, and sees opportunity for it to use it’s collective voice to advocate for change and support other producers to shift their approach to farming.

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Meet the focus producers

Nick & Deanna
Mundarlo
Stay tuned for the full case study
Rebecca
Yabtree West
Stay tuned for the full case study
Michael & Ellie
Willowlee
Stay tuned for the full case study
Sam & Prue
Bellevue
Stay tuned for the full case study

Practices and outcomes

Delve deeper into the 8 families’ soil and landscape regeneration practices, and the results for landscape function, production, economics and well-being.

Practices to regenerate soils and landscapes

The 8 families have achieved impressive outcomes across their properties. Based on best available data from various monitoring approaches, this section describes practices and outcomes according to four landscape processes that producers can observe and improve:

  • Solar-energy cycle

  • Water cycle

  • Soil-mineral cycle

  • Community (ecosystem) dynamics

A fifth landscape process – human and social dynamics – focuses on the farmers’ understanding of their own relationship and interaction with the landscape and with their families, groups and local communities. This is discussed in the Broader Outcomes section.

Grazing management (and supporting water infrastructure) is practiced by all 8 families. It can have positive impacts across all four landscape dynamics.

Read more about the practices

Broader outcomes

While causal links are difficult to determine, available data shows that all of the 8 families have experienced positive broader outcomes since joining the group, including improved:

  • Animal health

  • Economic position

  • Social wellbeing

Stay tuned for our analysis of these broader outcomes

Insights for policy and research

The story of the 8 families group provides rich insights that can not only inform other producers, but also policy makers and researchers.
The feed below will be updated with articles, blog posts, podcasts, webinars and other insights relating to the 8 families case study.

This project is supported by the Department of Water, Agriculture and the Environment, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.
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