The Small Farms Network
The Small Farms Network is a multi-award winning sustainable agricultural land manager network with a proven track record in Natural Resource Management project delivery, community engagement and workshop coordination.
Established in 2004 the Network was designed to capture the rapidly expanding small farm/peri-urban land manager demographic that was not being engaged by traditional community groups.
Small land managers as a collective can be difficult to engage because of their diverse rural lifestyles, off-farm employment, transient/absent nature and social disconnect with traditional community networks. However, the Small Farms Network has built a support structure which does engage these people based on:
- a coordinated local resource hub and whole farm approach to sustainable land management
- a diverse calendar of training/workshops for continual learning in a safe, social and practical environment
- regular communication with no perceived commitment to participate in events
- a strong focus on people by building trust, honesty and social networks.
The Network’s sustainable agricultural approach to land management includes a mixed bag of events appealing to many land managers on the south coast who were seeking relevant, local information and a social support network to belong to. A range of services are provided to assist landholders with their activities including:
- advice producing beef, sheep, goats, poultry, alpacas or worms
- weed control, pasture productivity and soil health advice
- project planning for bushland, creek restoration or shelterbelts design
- training workshops and field days on a wide range of sustainable land management topics.
The Network emerged at a pivotal time on the south coast; a transitional period in small land ownership, deregulation of the dairy industry and the sub-division of farming land for urban sprawl/lifestyle blocks. The Network filled this niche and catered for the diverse interests of small land managers operating mixed farming enterprises for lifestyle, hobby and small scale production.
The Network currently has 662 members (May 2017) and maintains communication with them and the wider community through the use of social media and a regular e-newsletter which are used to promote regional workshops, events, funding and provide updates on the latest agricultural news.
The Small Farms Network is a leader in sustainable land management, here’s a short list of some of the things we’ve achieved so far:
- delivery of 35 federal and state grants worth over $1.4 million and $100,000 annually in on-ground projects/training for various stakeholders since 2005
- establishment of over 25km of vegetation corridors and 80,000 tubestock within key biodiversity corridors (Berry Corridors, Croobyar Road and Kangaroo Valley)
- coordination of over 12 workshops annually on various land management topics, improving the skills and knowledge of over 350 landholders
- establishment of four local primary industry associations and networks including a south coast beef, sheep, beekeeping and Milton landholder network
- release of 30,000 autumn/winter active dung beetles in the Milton and Berry catchments
- winner of four State awards, most recently the 2015 NSW Blue Star Sustainability `Community Environmental Achievement Award’ and the 2015 NSW Australian Government Landcare Facilitator Award.
Capital Region Small Farms Network
In 2014-15 the Capital Regional Small Farms Network was established in the Queanbeyan region to help engage the large number of small productive and absentee land managers in the area. The Network has quickly expanded (228 members) and has received funding through the National Landcare Programme (Sustainable Agricultural Grant) and South East Local Land Services to deliver a wide variety of workshops to land managers. For more information, visit their website - http://smallfarmscapital.org