Regenerative Agriculture in WA
We often are asked if the fresh fruit and vegetables in our WA Produce Boxes are grown organically. The answer is no. BUT, this article explains the principles of regenerative agriculture and how the WA farmers we know – custodians of the land – are ensuring they are growing healthy food, that cares for consumers and the environment.
When Anthony and I designed and launched Matters of Taste’s Agri-Food Tours to the Southern Forests region in Western Australia it was borne from a desire to be a conduit between city and country folk; connecting consumers to their food; where it comes from and how it’s grown.
The amount of knowledge we’ve gained, along with enabling our customers to tap into this too, has been mind-blowing. We knew understanding was missing from society and it’s now more important than ever that consumers have an opportunity to explore, ask questions and be educated at the ‘coal face’, so to speak.
It was 2017, when standing in a Manjimup orchard having a frank and open conversation, I first heard a farmer say they used ‘Best Farm Practice’. At that time, I knew some food was grown without chemical sprays but I didn’t know of any properties in the region growing food that were certified ‘organic’ (I’ve always found tricky to gain knowledge about this as it doesn’t seem to be particularly transparent). I wanted to understand why the principles of ‘best farm practice’ were being used used on some farms and not others – this is a broad term but in this case the grower had made a conscious decision to use sprays as a last resort, as opposed to using them as commonplace preventative measures. A step towards regenerative practices, you could say.
Of course, organic fertilizers have been around since farming began and many farmers are using these already. But as a consumer myself, I wanted to be informed about how my food was being grown and therefore make a choice of what I was feeding myself and my family.
Now in 2022, we’ve seen first-hand, many agriculturalists adopting Regenerative Farming. Some farmers have taken the leap and others are one-step-at-a-time kind of operation. There’s a huge amount of bravery, capital, learning and time needed to commit to change.
To understand the what and why of regen farming, here’s a brief list (this is in no way exhaustive, but it’s a start)
1. Supports reversal of land degradation
2. Build soils that have resilience to changes in environmental conditions
3. Provides assistance in the slowing of global temperature rise
4. Increases soil biodiversity to contribute to healthy nutrient cycling
5. Uses natures methods to control pests and weeds
6. All the above, provide food security for the future due to increased yield
Jake Ryan of Three Ryans in Manjimup has been the major educator on our Agri-Food Tours. He’s knowledgeable, inspiring and walks the walk as well as talks the talk! Explaining to tour participants what he’s been doing since he completed his Degree in Agriculture and came home to work with his father on their family farm; over time this bloke has opened our minds.
His regenerative agricultural practices over a few short years (relatively speaking) have increased water retention and the soil now supports a better biology and ecosystem biodiversity. Even though he had a few nay-sayers, he planted nitrogen giving multi-crop species around the property and, without any irrigation, these plants thrive even throughout summer. The paddocks look so pretty and healthy too, dotted with tall stemmed sunflowers! Jake also plants rows of asylum and marigolds in between his brassicas to encourage predatory insects that minimise destructive pest damage. It’s a joy to behold and it’s working for him!
His first step was changing to a simple strip-grazing method where cows, sheep and egg-laying chickens, stocked together, were moved daily so that the grass wasn’t continuously nibbled to its’ lowest point. This allowed more vigorous growth in a shorter space of time.
The farm now stocks more head of cattle and sheep with a higher output resulting in increased farm productivity. The Three Ryans farm grows the best-tasting brassicas too – standing in the paddock with the sun warming our back, eating a floret of just-picked raw cauliflower, I, along with many food tour participants, can attest to this.
Jake says there’s more work to be done, he’s still learning and generously sharing his findings with us.
What lucky people we are to have farmers like him. He’s part of a movement ensuring food security for us in WA that is clean and non-toxic. Healthy soil equals healthy plants and animals which lead to healthy and affordable food and simply put; healthy humans.
If you live in Perth, want to become part of a more connected world, make a difference and enjoy good food, take a look at how you can purchase fresh WA produce from us at Matters of Taste.
Choose what you’d like from our growing local online market and click on this link WA Seasonal Fresh Produce Box .
Online shop opens midday every Monday and closes 8pm or when we reach our capacity limit (whichever comes first).
If this article has piqued your interest, you may want to join us on an Agri-Food tour to meet Jake and others like him. Take a look at when our next tours are running from here.
Images @ourphotostories and Tracey Cotterell