Above: A farm walk on a large sheep property at Tetoora Road generated a lot of discussion.
Farm and nature walks are a good way for Landcare and environment groups to connect to the wider community and attract potential new members. This article outlines how the Mt Worth and District Landcare Group designs and runs its annual farm walk and how the Springsure Hill Landcare Group, in conjunction with the West Gippsland Seedbank, runs its successful spring nature walks.
The Mt Worth and District Landcare Group, located south of Warragul on the steep slopes of the western Strzelecki Ranges, has been operating since 2004. The group has an active membership of approximately 40 households. Each February, when the weather is warm the days are long and there are no other Landcare projects underway, the group runs an open farm walk.
Two or three properties within easy
driving distance of each other are chosen. On the day each host family gives a short talk describing the history of the property, their current plans, what they’ve achieved and the work still in progress.
The host family leads participants around their property to show how specific projects are progressing. During the walk there is always a lot of chat, the sharing of knowledge and relevant questions asked of the host. The atmosphere is relaxed, friendly and inclusive.
It sounds simple enough, but there is a fair bit of preparation that goes on behind the scenes. Rosemary Kennedy, the group’s secretary, offered some advice on how to make sure a farm walk is a success.
“Contact owners well in advance and check if they have any specific rules they want visitors to their property to observe. This may include no dogs, no smoking, and children being under supervision at all times. The rules can then be stated in the flyer so everyone is clear about what is required.
“Plan the logistics for the day, have a clear timetable and stick to it. It is useful to visit the properties beforehand to discuss with the owners where people will park their cars, where they will gather and the route of the walk. This enables organisers to develop a suitable timetable for the day and complete a safety audit to ensure there are no hazards and the tracks are suitable for children. One to two hours per farm is then scheduled on the event flyer depending on what will be shared on each property.
“Arrange to have lunch at a farm that can offer good shade and facilities. Make sure there’s plenty of time for people to network, ask questions and share information. We usually suggest participants bring their own picnic lunch. The group provides tea and coffee.
“Information about the event can be placed in the local newspaper, emailed through community networks or mailbox dropped. Make sure you include the name and details of a contact person on all publicity.
“Ensure that all participants sign the FTLA attendance form on the day. This is essential for insurance purposes but also gives the secretary the contact details for any potential members to follow up with afterwards.
“Having information to hand out about Landcare or any specific topics that are relevant to the group is also appreciated by new members,”Rosemary said.
As the Mt Worth events are held in February people often bring excess fruit and vegetables from their gardens to swap with others.
Rosemary believes that the walk is a great way to make new or potential members feel welcome and build a stronger sense
A different type of event has been a success for the Springsure Hill Landcare Group, located north-east of Warragul. In conjunction with the West Gippsland Seedbank, the group runs a nature walk in mid to late spring when many of the indigenous plants are in flower.
The walk is a great way to attract people who are new to the area and are keen to be able to identify some of the plants they see in the surrounding bushland. The walk also encourages discussion about selecting plants for inclusion in shelterbelts or other revegetation projects that landowners may be planning.
Make sure there’s plenty of time for people to network, ask questions and share information.
According to Caroline Gully, President of the West Gippsland Seedbank and a member of Springsure Hill Landcare Group, the planning is similar to a farm walk.
“The main difference is the preparation of a handout with numbered photographs of plants that could be seen along the walk.
“If you have twenty or thirty people on a walk, you have to provide a way for them to identify the plants themselves. People like to walk at their own pace and they can’t always hear what the leader is saying.” Caroline said.
The day before the event Caroline, assisted by Yvonne Pelachi, tagged 35 different plants with a number that corresponded to a photograph on the handout.
“There were several families on the latest walk and the children enjoyed trying to find the plants that were tagged with numbers, and then checking them against the matching photograph,” Caroline said.
A final tip from Caroline is to ask a member of the group to take photographs on the day.
“As one of the organisers you will be too busy to do it yourself and it’s great to have a record to share with others or to promote the following year’s event.”
The most recent walk was held on a relatively flat track in a local state forest. It ended with a barbecue lunch where there was much discussion about special orchids and other plants that had been found along the way. A lot of information was also shared about the activities of the Landcare group and the Seedbank.