“A nation that destroys its soil destroys itself” ~ F D Roosevelt

Leaders in the field of sustaining humans through healthy food, delivered by healthy soil, the Soils for Life National Forum held at Huon Hill, Wodonga, 16 March, 2014 was a unifying event. The collaboration of minds and the sharing of regenerative land management practices strengthened the imperative that it is only through healthy soils producing healthy crops and pastures are increases in human health realised.

A celebration of biodiversity, the forum captivated an audience of more than 100 people. Attendees, guest presenters and Soils for Life board and executives, travelled from across Australia to share knowledge and prepare for the next phase in the growth of the Soils for Life raison d’être

Major General The Honourable Michael Jeffery, AC, AO(Mil), CVO, MC (Retd), Advocate for Soil Health and Chair of SFL gave the welcome address inviting input to land management policy, connecting urban Australia with their rural roots, education, engaging scientists and bringing to light issues that hinder or help further development in Northern Australia. The crux being “let biology have a go”.

Four engaging case studies were then presented covering topics and experiences in biologically friendly agricultural practices ranging across the fields of biodynamic farming, planned grazing, carbon sequestration, mixed farming on poor soils, pasture cropping and grazing at scale. A ‘Q and A’ forum ran for about an hour which gave voice to the many topics and innovations to which soil is the lifeblood.

Further information on each of the case studies is linked to below.

Soils for Life director Alasdair MacLeod’s closing comments summarised the five major themes of the forum:

  1. Nature: work with it not against it
  2. Plants: improve soil fertility to
    • Retain moisture
    • Improve nutrient cycling
    • Temperature control
  3. Water: flow of water through the landscape
  4. Livestock: a tool to be utilised in regenerative landscape management
  5. Soil !
  6. Optimising profitability

To encourage greater adoption of regenerative landscape management and agricultural practices the priorities which need to be understood are:

  1. The level of adoption already out there to encourage uptake and address barriers to adoption
  2. Economic modelling
  3. Fundraising
  4. Build partnerships that:
    1. support new adopters
    2. create awareness
    3. educate at primary & secondary levels
    4. benefit consumers
    5. influence grocery buying decision-makers
  • Connect with urban organisations
  • Provide scientific rigour

In closing the day’s activities, Michael Jeffery reiterated the value of healthy soils benefiting healthy human bodies and the sense of duty which fairly rewards farmers for the food and fibre they produce together with the environmental activities they undertake:

  1. Healthy food leads to healthy human bodies. Healthy bodies are less of a burden on the Federal Health Budget.
  2. Reward farmers fairly for their products
  3. Reward (pay) an adequate price for competent farmers farm production
  4. Pay all farmers (as environmental stewards) for carbon sequestrations
  5. Option to look at leasing property for the long-term as done in many Asian countries.

The mission for Soils for Life now is to generate energy which convinces the rest of the population that healthy soil leads to healthy bodies, healthy profits and healthy communities.

For ecological agriculturalists, whilst the social (human ecology) context of the forum remained off the time-limited discussion table on the Sunday, clearly it is only by being active socially in our communities – the biological communities on our farms, the people in our human communities that we care for and connect with, and the networks with which we share information, that continuing conversations and National forums such as held by Soils for Life will increase the tide of concern for the imperative to concurrently care for environment, care for economic security and care for healthy human populations. All this requires social action.

Sue Hill

Links to case studies:

Case study 1: Dukes Plain | Shane Joyce
Case study 2: Prospect Pastoral | Di and Ian Haggerty
Case study 3: Winona | Col Seis
Case study 4: Beetaloo | John Dunnicliff

Further information: Soils for Life

* “A nation that destroys its soil destroys itself” ~ Franklin D Roosevelt. Major General The Honourable Michael Jeffery left Soil for Life forum attendees with parting quote.

Soils for Life National Forum
Soils for Life National Forum ~ 16 March 2014 (Img Src: Soils for Life)

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