Dr Michelle Banfield is a Senior Research Fellow at the ANU Centre...Read more
Sustainable Farms: Healthy farmers, Healthy farms, Healthy profits
With a growing population, the demand and pressure to increase food and fibre production has never been stronger. Yet the challenges to meet such demand weigh heavily. Soil erosion, salinity, climate variations, and pest and weed control are just some of a farmer’s constant concerns.
These challenges impact the mental health and wellbeing of an already ageing workforce of farmers, with significant implications for the rural communities in which they live. These problems are major concerns for rural Australia that must be addressed. But how?
For two decades, the Australian National University (ANU), has researched and collected data from over 300 farmers engaged in sustainable farming from north-east Victoria to south-east Queensland. It is one of the largest, long-term studies of its kind in the world.
We are now in a position to translate these findings to help all farmers better manage the balance between agricultural production and long-term sustainability, and be more profitable along the way. Farmers who are better environmental stewards have reaped the benefits of their work financially. Many of our farmers not only credit their changed farming practices to helping them survive the Millennium Drought, but, in addition, say they are more profitable year-on-year.
In addition, our research has, time and time again, delivered testimonials from farmers and their partners that the increased presence of vegetation, tree cover, greener pastures and bird calls, has improved their mental health, sense of wellbeing and pride in what they do.
Healthier farms make for healthier farmers.
ANU has embarked on a five-year project to translate 20 years of ecologically focused farming research into information and tools that farmers can use to better manage their farm’s natural capital assets. We will show that a farm that is better managed environmentally, is better off financially and, in addition, substantially contributes to improving a farmer’s mental health and wellbeing.
Sustainable Farms will share research with local farmers to highlight the benefit of managing natural assets for biodiversity and production. This will include providing a suite of communication products and resources farmers can turn to, and easily understand. Sustainable Farms will also provide educational outreach to farmers through field days where farmers can hear and observe what other farmers have achieved. We aim to inspire actions that will enhance and maintain the natural assets on farms by showing the benefits for farm production and farmer wellbeing.
There has never been a more urgent time to address biodiversity on Australian Farms and to educate farmers about simple resource conservation techniques that are open to everyone. More than ever, farmers need robust, science-backed, data-driven practices they know can help their farm ecologically, while maintaining production. By bringing the management of natural assets to the fore of farm planning and decision making, the project aims to have a triple bottom line impact on the environment, farming, production and profits, and the wellbeing of farming families, and rural communities.
The Sustainable Farm team encompasses researchers in environmental accounting, economics and finance, and mental health, in addition to program evaluation and coordination, communications, and field-based staff. Importantly our field-staff live and work in agricultural landscapes and have paddock credibility. To find out more about our team, click on their images below.
Meet the team
Would you like to know more?