28 October 2012

A Day at Taranaki Farm

Yesterday we joined a tour of Taranaki Farm in central Victoria lead by the "World's most innovative farmer" (according to Time Magazine) Joel Salatin.  It was a great opportunity to learn more about innovative farming practices that focus on thoughtful regenerative and integrated systems, applicable to all scales of farming.  
Taranaki Farm is in the process of implementing a number of such systems, pioneered by Joel Salatin at his Polyface Farm in Virginia, across the property which has been in the same family for multiple generations.  Put way too simply (check out the Polyface Farm website for Joel's overarching principles and full story) Joels' techniques focus on mobile, low infrastructure systems that move animals regularly (in some cases daily) across pastures to maximise the growth potential and health of the grass and soil.   Along the way they promote natural health of the animals and use those animals passively to do the work to increase health of the land.

Joel is a strong advocate for future "health" of the farming industry, addressing succession planning as a key to farming sustainability.  In his words "If young people can't get into farming, old people can't get out".  Along with long-term environmental care of the land, he views his low cost, simple infrastructure as an effective method to allow new businesses to be developed on existing farms as a way of value-adding and of letting younger generations of farmers get a viable foothold in the industry.

On Taranaki Farm we learned about their new micro-dairy, a small-scale portable milking shed that is moved every day with the cows to fresh pasture to allow the quality of the land to be maintained and fertilised as they go.  Although Taranaki are currently only milking a few cows, the quality of the milk is such that the price is much higher than large-scale producers are paid.  

Also discussed was the use of pigs to regenerate marginal land; the use of chickens to work in rotation with beef cattle or sheep to fertilise and compost the soil, while producing an income via their eggs; and similarly the use of broiler chickens to work the soil in mobile chicken tractors before being sold for meat.  A beautiful fluffy white Maremma dog protects the chickens as they free-range in the open paddocks.

Taranaki Farm is a beautiful place, with an obvious commitment to ongoing care of the environment and their animals while continuing to build a successful business, on the success of previous generations.  With around 500 people on the tour, it was by necessity a broad overview of what they are doing, and the Polyface Farm systems, but it was certainly a fascinating introduction.  Joel Salatin is clearly a man with amazing ideas and success in translating those ideas into actions, who could clearly talk with great insight for hours. I had the feeling we only scratched the surface yesterday.  

No comments:

Post a Comment