For the past three years, a first-of-its-kind grant system in South East NSW has been helping small-scale farmers achieve their sustainability goals.
Last week, SCPA South East Producers released the final round of Farms with a Future grants, bringing the networking and development program to a close.
Farms with a Future was part of a $125 million national Landcare program investment that Local Land Services delivered to help boost farm gate productivity and improve environmental health across the state.
In total, SCPA distributed $128,000 of government funding to 72 farmers in South East NSW over the three year period.
We’ve seen people learn from each other, share information and experiences and jump into new projects with more confidence.Carolyn Wells, Farms with a Future
The grants were split into two categories. Farmers who hosted one of the program’s ‘ground work days’ on their property – group workshops tackling a specific on-farm issue – received $4000 from Farms with a Future to invest in their property’s sustainability.
The farmers who participated in the ground work days and completed a sustainable farm plan competed for 60 $1000 grants towards implementing their personalised farm plan.
While the financial assistance helped small scale farmers improve their sustainability, Farms with a Future team member Carolyn Wells said the sharing of information was the most valuable aspect of the program.
“A core part of this project over the last three years has been peer learning and creating a network between farmers and the contractors that can help them,” she said.
“We’ve seen people learn from each other, share information and experiences and jump into new projects with more confidence.”
Ms Wells said the ground work days had been diverse and engaging, ranging the topics of water management, soil erosion, chemical free weed control, grazing and pasture management, restoring native pastures and habitats and improving biodiversity.
The ground work days were held in a variety of climates across the South East, from the cool, dry Monaro regions of Bombala and Dalgety to the lush, coastal forests of Brogo and Turlinjah.
“Spreading the ground work days around our region and breaking the grant money from Local Land Services into smaller denominations means we can reach more farmers and ensure a better rate of sustainable practices in our region,” Ms Wells, said.
“Many small farmers told me Farms with a Future was the only way for them to access these grants, and it’s fantastic, because now we have dozens of farms with sustainable plans in place.”