Above Tony Gardner leading discussion during a soil demonstration site field day at Buffalo in 2018.
Tony Gardner lives and breathes sustainable agriculture. He is currently the Partnership and Engagement Programs Coordinator for the West Gippsland CMA. His 25-year career has seen him run workshops on composting, build community gardens, work with the Green Corps, and teach conservation, land management and permaculture here and overseas.
Tony spent four years with the South Gippsland Landcare Network helping farmers to fence and revegetate eroded gullies and landslips in the steep Strzelecki hills. He then moved into roles addressing soil acidification and carbon, and in 2010 headed up the region’s Healthy Soils Sustainable Farms Project.
Tony’s leadership of the Healthy Soils Sustainable Farms Project has produced impressive results. Working closely with local Landcare Networks, Agriculture Victoria and industry, the project engaged more than 30 per cent of the region’s farm businesses and built their capacity for taking up sustainable practices over eight years. More than 60 capacity building events were held involving more than 1000 participants across the region. The project established 13 demonstration sites trialing innovative land management. More than 150 farm management plans were prepared for individual properties, representing almost 37,500 hectares of agricultural land, with 78 per cent of farm businesses making management changes recommended in their plans.
Tony believes that measuring the impact of project activities, asking what barriers exist to making change, and using the findings to inform project delivery is critical.
“We need to build a meaningful picture of what we are doing. I’m committed to rigorous evaluation. It’s the basis for breaking down the barriers to change,” Tony said.
Tony displays an impressive ability to develop partnerships and foster relationships with stakeholders. His leadership in capacity building and the uptake of sustainable practices has made a substantial impact in the West Gippsland CMA region.
The Dr. Sidney Plowman Travel and Study Award is awarded to a staff member of DELWP, DJPR or the CMAs to undertake travel or study that will assist them in contributing to practice change among farmers.
Tony will use the award to attend the 7th National Natural Resource Management Knowledge Conference in Wodonga in November 2019. He is also planning to visit Holbrook and the Monaro region to look at advances in regenerative agriculture.
Tony will give a presentation at the conference and will bring his knowledge from the trip back to the West Gippsland CMA to improve the sustainable agriculture program.