Above Alandi Durling from the Mid Ovens Landcare Consortium (right) and Anne Stelling from Wodonga Urban Landcare Network inspecting a small rural property at Myrtleford that runs dorper sheep.
Wodonga Urban Landcare Network is working on a three-year project, in partnership with the Mid Ovens Landcare Consortium (MOLC), to build the capacity of small rural property owners to apply best practice land management principles to their land.
The project is adapted from Healthy Hectares – a program developed by Goulburn Broken CMA and Euroa Arboretum.
According to Healthy Hectares North East project officer, Sophie Enders, one of the project’s biggest successes has been delivering all of its intended field day topics despite the huge challenges of COVID-19.
“The face-to-face workshops couldn’t go ahead as planned. We had to change our delivery methods but still got all the information out and we were able to keep a network of people active and engaged during the lockdown,” Sophie said.
The unprecedented situation of not being able to meet in community locations and on farms even had some advantages.
“Farm visits turned into meetings via Zoom. With distance no longer a barrier, speakers could present from their homes directly into the homes of participants.” - Sophie Enders
The workshops have covered topics on planning, soils, water, and choosing and caring for livestock. Future topics will include managing invasive pests and weeds and attracting wildlife.
Twenty owners of small properties signed up for the full program with additional casual participants picking up specific sessions. The other advantage of online learning has been the recordings of the workshops so they can be viewed at any time.
According to Sophie, a small property isn’t defined by size, rather it’s about the property use.
“A small property is one where the property owners aren’t relying on the actions on their property for their sole income,” she says. We left this for the property owners to self-determine. The workshops aim to provide information on sustainably managing your property for now and into the future,” Sophie said.
The presentation from ecologist, fungi expert and environmental photographer Alison Pouliot on soils worked especially well with an online format as she was able to show her photographs to participants through screenshare. A large number of participants took part and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.
Sophie Enders spent a lot of time on her grandparent’s farm at Carboor, near Wangaratta, when she was growing up and went on to complete a degree in wildlife and conservation biodiversity. She is very positive about the Healthy Hectares project, believing it is possible to farm successfully while still being sustainable and leaving room for native birds and wildlife.
“I came off a family property where biodiversity and conservation were always encouraged, back to my grandfather’s generation, so I learnt these lessons from an early age,” she said.
Sophie has been encouraged by the reach of the program. Participants have come from Wangaratta, Beechworth, Albury, Bright and many places in between. There has been a diverse mix of participants including retirees, established farmers and even those with large residential blocks.
The workshops encourage participants to engage with Landcare and other local groups so they can continue their learning journey.
Sophie has adjusted the Healthy Hectares booklet created by the Goulburn Broken CMA and Euroa Arboretum to produce a local version full of useful knowledge and resources.
Natasha Lobban is a journalist and farmer from Eldorado. Alandi Durling is the Local Landcare Facilitator for MOLC. Alandi’s position is funded through the Victorian Landcare Facilitator Program. For copies of the North East Healthy Hectares Guide go to www.wodongalandcare.org.au For more information about Healthy Hectares email firstname.lastname@example.org