Former Australian Defence Force Infantry Officer Greg Colton has switched from serving his nation to fighting for a global cause: our climate.
Through his studies in Regenerative Agriculture, Greg is pushing for new farming practices for the benefit of future generations.
Following a distinguished career spanning more than two decades in the British and Australian armies, Greg and his wife moved to an over-grazed 100-acre (40.4ha) property in the Snowy Monaro region of New South Wales. Needing to regenerate the land, Greg enrolled in the Bachelor of Science (Regenerative Agriculture) at Southern Cross University.
While transitioning from the military to farming sounds unconventional, Greg’s career path seems to have been written in the stars.
“When I was in high school, I had a career guidance class and I completed a computer quiz. There were about a thousand questions and at the end it spat out the jobs that it thought you were most suited to. I only had two results. One said army officer and the other said farmer,” Greg said.
“I look back and laugh. Maybe they were actually on to something.”
Greg’s pursuits in regenerative farming were championed in his second year of study. A VRM Biologik Future Leaders Scholarship has further propelled his plans to enter agriculture.
“Not only has it given me confidence in my own ability and my studies, the company is also mentoring me so that I can go into the agriculture space and help others transition towards more regenerative practices,” he said.
The highlights of his course so far have been the people, from teaching staff to his peers.
“The academic staff have been brilliant. This is the fourth university I have studied at and these are the best lecturers and academic staff of all four. The other students are also fantastic. Within the cohort, there is such a rich variety of experience, ideas and passion.”
Greg said the hands-on residentials and farm tours have brought his degree to life. He has visited properties across northern New South Wales and southeast Queensland, including strawberry, cotton, macadamia, and cattle farms.
He is now incorporating his learnings into the management of his own farm in the Snowy Mountains.
“We rotationally graze our horses based off how the grass is growing and what the weather conditions are like,” he said.
“We’ve planted over 200 fruit trees, mainly cider apple trees, and we’re managing the orchard by using a lot of regenerative agriculture strategies, including testing the soil annually.
“We’ve also planted over 200 native trees to create wildlife corridors near our orchards. These produce ecosystem benefits, such as bringing pollinators and natural predators of pests into our farming system. The hope is that we can create a self-managing ecosystem that is also productive.
“It’s not just the practical things we’re doing; it’s the mindset of how we’re doing it. We’re not asking how we want the property to look in two years’ time, but in 100 years from now.”
Greg said there needs to be a mindset shift for how we care for our planet.
“I don’t understand who wouldn’t be an environmentalist with our understanding of climate science. Who doesn’t want to see a planet fit for habitation for their children and grandchildren?” he said.
“Instead of the Australian agricultural sector thinking about how we grow beyond $100 billion as an industry, I think we should be asking how we get beyond 100 years. How do we farm in this country and provide food for people to eat in the twenty-second century? I think the whole conversation needs to flip and it’s quite exciting to be a part of that.”