Women in Ag Networking and Diversification Bus Tour
Recently, eight local farming women participated in the Liebe Group’s Women in Ag Networking and Diversification Tour through the Perth and Peel regions. This project was supported by FRRR, through funding from the Australian Government’s Future Drought Fund.
Starting in Perth with long time Diamond Partner CSBP, the first stop was at the CSBP Soil and Plant Laboratory in Bibra Lake. Running for more than 50 years, the soil and plant lab conducts over 1 million soil tests, and over 100,000 plant samples per year. The women were able to view the soil testing process, from drying and tumbling, to extracting and analysing from a small sample.
Rounding out the first day was a visit to another Liebe Group partner’s plant breeding facility at Intergrain, for a look into the long process of breeding new wheat, barley and oat varieties. Taking up to ten years, the breeding process starts in a glasshouse and goes through many years of quality control before finally being launched and available to growers.
With drought resilience and diversification being a key component to the tour, the second day saw the bus stop at Drakesbrook Wines for a tour of their family owned and operated vineyard.
In January 2016, Drakesbrook lost everything to fire. They are slowly rebuilding their stores and continue to grow French and Spanish varieties which are suitable for their soil and climate. Using only sulphur on the vines, Drakesbrook Wines encourage chickens to roam amongst the plants for natural fertiliser.
The next stop was with Blythe Calnan at Runnymede Farm where she, and her husband, have implemented a regenerative farming system with intensive rotational grazing for their cattle and chickens. With over 2000 chickens, their rotational systems sees the cattle moved daily with the chickens following no later than three days afterwards.
With a broad range of soil types, Runnymede Farm are making use of the nutrients already on site, and have not applied nitrogen in over three years. This has proven beneficial for the fungi and bacteria found in their soil profile and is continuing to improve.
Blythe noted how great it was to have the Liebe Women visit and share information, ideas and discuss issues facing us all as farming families.
“In the household, the business, the community and industry representation the contribution of women to the success and resilience of rural Australia is absolutely critical,” she said.
The final stop for day two was with Halls Family Farm which is currently hosting the fifth generation. With seven different breeds on site, the dairy has 180 cows in their commercial herd and ten French Normandy cows for their specialty cheese, Halls Suzette, which the group were lucky enough to taste and purchase.
Using collars on each animal, the Hall family are able to track distance travelled, health of the animal, fertility timing and more to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the herd.
Finishing off the tour, the group visited Patane Produce for a tour through their main facility. Operating for 27 years, Patane Produce started with potatoes, carrots and onions, and have recently added broccoli to the rotational mix. They are heavily regulated for water use and are impacted by salinity, and nothing goes to waste with scraps being fed to their cattle on site.
With a pre-COVID staff of over 80, Patane Produce are involved with the Pacific Labour Scheme and are able to employ staff from Vanuatu as needed to assist with the operational side of the business. Daily irrigation, weekly sprays and fertilisers are required to ensure supply is maintained.
The group were able to view the process from quality control to packing and loading onsite with their own company trucks before produce was shipped to Coles and Woolworths.
Such a tour would not have been possible without the support from FRRR and the Australian Governments Future Drought Fund, Liebe Group partners CSBP and Intergrain, and all the small businesses who allowed the group to visit.