Farmers Lifted by New Hope for Farming for the Future

Media Release – October 2009

Tamworth's Terry Balla may have joined 85 others from Kempsey, Armidale and the surrounding area to pick up some soil management tips from leading agronomist Dr Maarten Stapper but he left with something even he never expected – hope.

Terry has lived all his life on a farm – his parents ran dairy and his property Merlin grows grain and runs sheep and cattle. By his own admission he signed up for the free workshop because his yields were hopeless.

"In a word the workshop was awesome,' he said.

"It gave me hope – hope that I could turn things round at my place and they were achievable.

"My land is flogged, with no organic matter at all, the yields are hopeless but it can be changed and within a period of three years.

"I can live with that. It all made sense. I have fruit trees at home that produce amazing fruit and all I do is mulch them – it made sense in why are we not doing that to our paddocks.

"There were defining moments for me where I thought, ‘hello Terry you need to do this.'

"Looking around the room there was a lot of nodding of heads – not so much from the older farmers but certainly from the younger more progressive growers."

Sponsored by the Australian Fertiliser Service Association, along with Advanced Nutrients, Tamworth businesses Hazell's Farm and Fertiliser Service, East West Enviroag, Gunnedah's Fertile Farm and Kempsey's Prowse Agricultural Soil Specialist, the aim was to raise farmer awareness on how to use fewer chemicals in their crop and animal systems to be more profitable.

Dr Stapper described the fertiliser sponsorship as forward thinking and responsible because it proved to farmers the industry too agreed there needed to be a better balance in our soil management.

"I have conducted workshops like this before," Dr Stapper said.

"This time you could really feel the message was being accepted and at the end of the workshop it was groups of farmers coming up together to further discuss new methods.

"Most of the time young farmers don't want to talk in groups because they are exposing themselves to others, they want to change. At this workshop there was a noticeable difference in they were ready, wanting and happy for other farmers to see them making that step.

"This is the only way real change will happen. We need small groups of farmers to start to lead the charge and for other farmers to look over the fence at their paddocks and literally see the grass is greener."

Advanced Nutrients Managing Director Craig Salmon said primary producers were under more pressure than any other time in our farming history but the free workshop was proof they were not alone.

"Our sponsorship of events like this allows farmers to come and hear about new farming methods without any out of pocket expense," Mr Salmon said.

"For too long farmers have viewed the fertiliser industry with suspicion and derision – we are all in the business of food production together and have to think smarter to feed the billions of people worldwide projected for coming decades.

"You could see the room was staggered by figures showing our food production has dropped in basic nutrients like vitamin C and iron by as much as 80% compared to 60 years ago."

Businessman Rod Hazell reckoned the shift in gear by farmers in the room was almost tangible.

Hazell's Farm and Fertiliser, a co sponsor of the event, has supplied fertiliser to the region for over

20 years and Rod believes trusted agronomy advice and support will win back farmer respect.

"We are in it together," he said.

"Changes to agriculture are inevitable and Agribusinesses have to be at the forefront of change to deliver information as well as product to farmers.

"Dr Stapper's information is straight forward and methods so simple. Yes it does mean buying less

fertiliser but a business like mine is based on service and we need to help our clients maintain their profitability and in doing so it helps us."

For farmers like Terry and the others at the workshop, the real test will be the application of their new knowledge.

"You can count me in," he said. "I have finally got hope that I can make a difference and I can bring about change."

Media enquires – for interviews with Dr Stapper, Craig Salmon, Rod Hazell or Terry Balla contact McGown Creative: Tracey McGown on 0417 614 694.




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