Farming against the grain

PIONEER: Yass farmer and former CSIRO scientist John Ive on his property ‘Talaheni’ has used his vast knowledge of the science behind farming to increase productivity levels,

PIONEER: Yass farmer and former CSIRO scientist John Ive on his property ‘Talaheni’ has used his vast knowledge of the science behind farming to increase productivity levels,

SHOULD we humans simply ignore the fires, floods and increased deaths climate change is bringing?

Fourteen farmers – those who are bearing the brunt of climate change and who accept the science, tell how they have observed or recorded the unpredictable weather events, the reduction in rainfall and its shift to the hotter months when it is less useful to plants.

Far from contributing to the problem with their farming practices, these practitioners demonstrate how they are reducing their greenhouse gases to zero (or below in some cases) and significantly, remain profitable.

All are committed to pass on their farm in a better condition than when they bought or inherited it.

Crops or livestock, big or small, they have worked cooperatively, mostly through Landcare, to plant thousands of trees and daily enjoy and in one case meticulously record, over 100 bird species. 

Several have blocks of mature trees just for posterity.

These inspiring and informative farmer stories appear in retired tertiary teacher Bill Hampel’s latest book, ‘Against the Grain’ and will open up a world absolutely new to most city dwellers.

One of those farmers is John Ive, who with his wife Robyn conduct an ultra fine (13-14 micron) wool growing enterprise at their property ‘Talaheni’, outside Yass.

John, a former CSIRO scientist and the winner of many awards including the 2013 gong for ‘extra ultra-fine fleece’ at the Australian Sheep and Wool Show, insists science is the key to productivity.

He demonstrates how a “landscape approach” to land management on Talaheni has lifted pasture production.

When he bought his run down block, one third of the property was saline but strategic tree planting transformed the enterprise, eventually winning some 25 awards for his scientific approach to farming.

This has included managing runoff water from the less productive areas of his property, directing it to the flatter more fertile areas and developing a computerised means of gauging soil moisture content.

Mr Ive’s fascinating story, and those of the thirteen other dedicated farmers around the nation interviewed for this book will offer many valuable tips for the hosts of many less scientific people struggling with water shortages, heat related production losses, and much more.

Author’s consensus on climate change

AUTHOR of ‘Against the Grain - Fourteen farmers adapt to climate change’, Bill Hampel says that he spent almost three years researching the various issues for this book.

He also explained the reason behind why he chose these 14 farmers.

“I spent about 30 months interviewing the farmers, listening to recordings, writing reports on each, collating findings of science, writing and interacting with the editor,” he said.

“My criterion for choosing the farmers was that they all accept the science of climate change. 

It is not surprising therefore that they are open-minded about all sorts of science in relation to farming: on pastures, soils, animal genetics, solar energy, tree planting and so on. 

They have strong links with groups outside the farm including Landcare, which has been an invaluable source of scientific information as well as a forum for exchange and fellowship.”

Mr Hampel expressed his disappointment at what he described as a ‘lack of federal leadership on climate change.’

“Many, including an Australian Nobel scientist have been very scathing about the government’s disrespect for science,” Mr Hampel said.

“The Climate Council, whose membership includes climate scientist Prof. Will Steffen and IPCC lead author, Prof. Lesley Hughes, says that even if we reduce our emissions by 26% by 2030, we’ll emit three times more per person than the UK and five times more than the USA.

“The government repeatedly prioritises the economy over the environment, while not seeming to understand that every week we delay the move away from fossil fuels, and embark on serious climate amelioration to the degree scientists tell us we should, the costs to the economy rise.

“Frankly, the PM has his head in the sand.”

He said many world organisations such as the UN and even the World Bank is urging Australia to take stronger action on climate change.

“In the book, I mention several leading US Republican businessmen who endorse the view that delays in moving away from fossil fuel energy generation are going to incur increasing economic costs,” Mr Hampel said.

“The sad thing – and this was expressed by a number of the farmers – is that Malcolm Turnbull missed out on the leadership of the Liberal Party.

As we know, he has long taken the view that action on climate change is imperative, and not that it is “crap” as his current leader only too recently infamously declared.

Regrettably, in both major parties, there are few if any trained scientists, although this should not be an impediment to enlightened leadership.

Until recently, Australia was regarded as a pariah state for its inaction on climate change. I find the cherry picking of figures and self justification by the government shameful.” 

INTERESTING: The book ‘Against the Grain-Fourteen farmers adapt to climate change’, written by Melbourne author Bill Hampel, which Mr Ive features in.

INTERESTING: The book ‘Against the Grain-Fourteen farmers adapt to climate change’, written by Melbourne author Bill Hampel, which Mr Ive features in.