Regenerative agriculture videos

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Regenerative Ag Alliance

Regenerative Agriculture Alliance (RAA) was formed from the Farming Together Program with strong uptake from farmers, fisheries and foresters wanting to collaborate. (4:22)

Tammi Jonas - President, Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance
When I think about the urgency of the problem I think of that old farmer saying you know when's the best time to plant a tree? 20 years ago. When's the second-best time? Now. That's the urgency of the problem we're facing.

We know from the IPCC report that the climate is changing very rapidly we're looking at what up to a two degree increase in temperature within the next 11 and a half years and that's not that the world ends in 11 1/2 years but it means we have a lot more extreme weather events ahead of us I put my faith in the farmers who are making the changes.

Meanwhile what our job to do as those of us part of collective organizations we'll keep working on the politicians we'll work on those cycles of government and getting them on board but meanwhile the house is on fire so we need more farmers to actually be here putting out fires and making more resilient systems.

Lorraine Gordon - Founder, Regenerative Agriculture Alliance & Director, Strategic Projects, Southern Cross University
So the journey into regenerative agriculture and the concept of the Regenerative Ag Alliance really came out of the farming together program we'd had enormous uptake from farmers fishers and foresters to want to collaborate together to improve their state of effects basically to improve profits back at the farm gate and we ended up with twenty eight and a half thousand farmers connected to that farming together program but when we supported them through experts support and consultants and when we supported them with grants of money to do their various projects every one of those projects had a triple bottom-line outcome it ticked the box of being good for the environment good socially for the community and had great economic returns for farmers. So it was a natural progression to think well where do we take farmers now where do we need to go.

The whole climate change and drought scenario was really starting to kick in and I knew that we needed to go to another level we were beyond sustaining in this country and in the world we actually needed to take our farmers to the next phase and the next phase was to repair and to regenerate the land.

So because we already had these wonderful farmer groups doing fantastic things it was just a natural step to take and it would then make or assist them to be resilient around climate change.

Tammi Jonas
Yes so for me the Alliance is kind of like a really good biodiverse farm right as opposed to a monoculture of the same kind of people who all have will just want to grow the same crop and why we've got down to what is it nine crops in the world or 66% of our diet this isn't doing us any good.

So the Alliance is a kind of new space where we're saying well actually we need more biodiversity in this space we need women and men we need large and small farmers.

We need other people who are helping support those farmers and we need educational institutions we need all of us coming together to grow a really beautiful and diverse system.

Helen & Mike MCosker - Directors of Carbon8
You know the heart of the community is tremendously important in how we maintain respect for each other how we move as a community and share information and I suppose that's where I see the the Regenerative Ag Alliance is particularly important because now we're broadening our community we've got a group of people that are all looking to try and change we've all got different ideas and we're all sharing those ideas now in a way that's building the possibilities for everybody.

And I think that's a beautiful way of looking at how we want our soils to be you know if we want ourselves to be rich and full of life and full of bugs and critters and conversations and you know fun and love then that's what our community should be.

So I think that you know if we were able to mirror and understand that for our soil to be diverse for our soil to be rich then our communities need to be the same.

Tammi Jonas
I don't think there's any other way to fix it.

I think the only way that we can fix the fix the problems at hand is to work collectively and diversely across our many many  systems.

 

Importance of soil health

Soil is the beginning of everything. Without a good soil we don't grow very many plants at all and without the plants animals and ourselves we don't exist. So it's critical that all of our health and well-being pretty much comes out of the soil. (4:09)

Derek Smith - Working with Nature; Farmers and Educators of regenerative farming, Gura NSW
Soil is the beginning of everything.

Without a good soil we don't grow very many plants at all and without the plants animals and ourselves we don't exist. So it's critical that all of our health and well-being pretty much comes out of the soil.

Bruce Pascoe - Indigenous historian and author of Dark Emu
As we're killing soil and we're artificially propping it up with chemicals either to as artificial fertilizer, weedicides, pesticides.

Derek Smith
We're losing the fertility of our soil we're losing the carbon within our soils we're losing the biology within our soils and the combination of all of these losses is it's something we can't go on doing.

Bruce Pascoe
We're on the tipping point of plummeting fertility in this country.

Derek Smith
If we do damage to the soil we're in effect doing damage to ourselves the food we're eating today is not as nutritious so we're not getting exactly what we need to be as healthy as we should.

Bruce Pascoe
Well the whole economy rests on on soil. It doesn't matter whether it's an industrial economy or not we are only what we stand on. So we have to protect that soil and people who don't are just spending their children's capital.

Kerry Cochrane - President, Australian Institute of Ecological Agriculture Cooperative Ltd.
When farmers invest in in chemicals I think it's a bit like and borrowing from the bank at some point you have to put the interest back. Well that's happening now with soils because over time the addition of those chemicals can deaden the soil. They don't have the life they used to have to fix the microbial activity in the fungi activity in the soil.

That means the investment coming back from the soil is less than it used to be but I think those people in who are into regenerative farming at the moment are most surprised to find that their ecosystem their soils for example are actually responding by non-interference that they're actually producing more from that arrangement that structure within their farming routine.

Lorraine Gordon - Founder, Regenerative Agriculture Alliance & Director, Strategic Projects, Southern Cross University
We've made some mistakes farming in agriculture we've followed European methods when in retrospect we shouldn't of. Australia has the oldest soils in the world its landscapes are very different from Europe its soil profiles are very different and we need to farm an Australian Way we need to listen to our our indigenous elders on how they may have farmed previously and we need to really work on collaborating together and continually educating ourselves on really what is the best methodology that is going to save our landscapes, save our soils, help with carbon sequestration and basically save the planet.

Derek Smith
The microbiology of soil is very exciting it's a frontier that we really need to push very hard because we know nothing about the biology of soil.

Basically it's it's a travesty really of justice that we can put someone on the moon or and almost on Mars but we know nothing about the microbes in the soil we we probably know about 4% they believe. It promises so much.

Terry McCosker - Founder & Director, Resource Consulting Services
I think humus which is one of the components of organic carbon in the soil is the beginning and the end of all life. So all life starts with humus and all life ends up back as humus. So carbon is this it's this central thing that we've got that drives life.

Derek Smith
With the time scale that this is working on means that almost anyone that's running a farm today can see the benefits and see the outcomes in their lifetimes it can work very quickly if we do the right things.

 

Impact of climate change and carbon

Understanding the vital role regenerative agriculture plays in restoring the health of our soils through holistic management. Carbon is central to linking soil health to human health and is the foundation of all energy. (7:13)

Terry McCosker - Founder & Director, Resource Consulting Services
If we want to reverse global warming it's actually quite easy to do and we can do it and we can start today. We could reverse it significantly within five years I believe that if we had the will and we had enough people that are managing land involved in the process.

We're all about life aren't we and how we go about living and are we living a joyful life or are we living a sad hateful fighting sort of life and a lot of people are living this sad life where they're actually fighting everything around them and when you're fighting mother nature it is not a war you're ever going to win.

As mother nature's got more tricks up her sleeve than we will ever know about. And if we think about that from the point of view of the human race, the human race is doing significant damage to this planet and damaging at an accelerating rate.

But the planet doesn't actually care because the planet doesn't need the human race, the human race needs the planet.

Dr. Charlie Massy - NSW farmer, scientist and author of Call of the Reed Warbler
To me the flip side is if we have the power to destabilize the whole planetary system if we do the right things and the right practices like Regenerative Ag why can't we start pulling that back because we know regenerative agriculture can drag down huge amounts of carbon dioxide buried in the soil if we do it right.

Terry McCosker
So if we're going to change things we got to start right back at the farming end of things and that's what I'd call regenerative we've got to regenerate the health of our farming systems our soils we've got to regenerate that soil microbiome, that plant microbiome, that animal microbiome which will then regenerate the human microbiome.

Lorraine Gordon - Founder, Regenerative Agriculture Alliance & Director, Strategic Projects, Southern Cross University
There is an innate relationship between hooved animals and quality pasture because what they do is they take the top off the pasture to allow more sunlight into those pastures more photosynthesis to take place which brings the carbon down through the roots of the plant and into our soil profiles. And as grazing animals move across a landscape particularly when they are moved and paddocks are rested allows those plants as plant communities to thrive.

That is what produces good carbon in the soil.

Helen & Mike McCosker - Directors of Carbon8
Plants and animals have evolved together and particularly in the rangeland areas those grasslands don't stay healthy if you try and take the animals off in fact the scientists that designed holistic management was an ecologist from South Africa and he saw the damage that happened when you took the animals out of the system and how it degraded. He realized that it wasn't the animals in the system that were doing the damage it was how the animals were being managed in a natural system the predators bunch the grazing animals together we take the predators away now the grazing animals spread out and can do damage.

So it's really a case of us trying to to mimic that in our management we want to bunch those animals together you know we become the predator we bunch them together and then we move them around and that helps us manage the landscape. So it's a case of whether we're doing things that are degrading the landscape or building the landscape.

Lorraine Gordon
Without hoofed animals moving across a landscape eating the tops of our pastures our pastures and our landscapes will turn to deserts that is science but the message is not getting through.

Terry McCosker
Carbon is central to this whole linking soil health to human health. Carbon is the foundation of all energy and whether we're talking fossil fuel energy or the energy and the food that you eat, carbon is the energy source.

Lorraine Gordon
We will all benefit from carbon trading. Once we start to sequest carbon in the soil and we end up being reimbursed for it because once you put an economic value on something all of a sudden watch things happen. So it will benefit not only farmers in their hip pocket because it will be income for them down the track, it will sustain them into the future, they'll be carbon farmers.

Jennifer Lauber Patterson - Managing Director, Frontier Impact Group
If it's economic why aren't we doing it? Why are we doing it if it makes investment sense? I can see this being billions and billions of dollars of investment. The urgency is economic we have a significantly underused economic resource.

What's great with agriculture is our land is abundant and is unlimited in terms of the potential for the soil if we look after it. But in addition to that you're achieving environmental benefits that are significant and also social impact of actually being out there help farmers on the land and how great is it is food security it's improving soil health which is better not only for our planet but also for our children.

Terry McCosker
So we've got this beautiful carbon cycle that's been operating now for about 370 million years. Is this amazing bit of technology that Mother Nature developed and we wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for this carbon cycle but carbon must cycle. It must go into every living thing, go out of every living thing and back into every living thing again. The useful place to put it is into soils.

What we would be doing is building the health of those soils. So as we put that into the soil we improve the water holding capacity of the soils, we become more drought resistant.

We improve the quality of the food that we produce off those soils so that consumers going to benefit from that. We improve the microbiomes because we've now got homes and we've got energy for the soil biology to both attach to and to feed off and somewhere for their waste products to go.

So there's if this is a win-win-win in every direction we can take co2 out of the atmosphere we can put it in a place where it's only going to do good.

Lorraine Gordon
Whilst agriculture has has contributed to perhaps 12 13 percent of greenhouse emissions we are the ones that will be able to sequester carbon and by sequestering carbon in our landscapes we can bring these temperatures down.

It can be like a second Enterprise not only can they have their crops and pasture fed stock they can also make a living out of sequestering carbon and Southern Cross University plays a vital role in enabling farmers right across Australia to learn how to do that.

 

Education as vehicle of change

Southern Cross University has taken the lead in developing a regenerative agriculture course that will give students an understanding of ecology, a knowledge of themselves and of working within a community. (3:52) 

Tammi Jonas - President, Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance
I think change is is something that keeps this sort of creative and alive and excited and I'm like a changed junkie. Give me something new and creative all the time and that's how I feel about change.

For humanity it's the same as my feeling about change in that change is good for us it challenges us and it makes us think harder about things than if everything's always just the same and that can help us as society get better at what we do because we were challenged.

Derek Smith - Working with Nature; Farmers and Educators of regenerative farming, Gura NSW
I took a group of organic farming students to a friend of mine up at Glen Innes and he had a property up there but he was my AG teacher at high school.  The first thing he said to me when we started he said you know all that stuff that I taught you at school and I said yeah he said don't do that anymore so.. A lot of the stuff I learnt at university was not what I teach at all these days I some of it was almost the antithesis of what I teach now.

Kerry Cochrane - President, Australian Institute of Ecological Agriculture Cooperative Ltd.
Education is about the development of a rounded approach to understanding life it's about the making of meaning in each person's life it's about an individual journey it's about an end point where a person can go out into the world and improve that world. So it has many facets to it but largely it's really about a journey that individual goes on because they have a purpose and that purpose relates to a greater whole.

Bruce Pascoe - Indigenous historian and author of Dark Emu
We need a reward curiosity that's what schools ought to do because inevitably and traditionally the study of science has had rewards for the human world.

Tammi Jonas
We're always doing the best we can with the information we have and sometimes we find out later there was more information that could made us do things differently and that doesn't mean we were wrong it just means we had more to learn.

Our education system is letting us down. So in most of the major universities we are still being taught old-school agronomy you know where it's not whether to add chemical it's how much at what time of year. The hope for me has come out of some of the much smaller and younger universities I think is they have a nimbleness to them where they're prepared to make change and be responsive to society. they're not the establishment saying we already have all the answers.

Kerry Cochrane
In terms of degrees in agriculture in Australia most are agricultural science degrees and they're reductionist in style it's about subjects and about examinations there isn't one on regenerative agriculture in this country the course at Southern Cross University in regenerative agriculture will give students an understanding of the nature of what they're working with the ecosystem that is there how to work with that ecosystem how to know what happens when you do what you do on the farm and how that might impact on an ecosystem.

So that's what we want our graduates to come out with is a knowledge of ecology, a knowledge of themselves and a knowledge of how to work in a community.

Lorraine Gordon - Founder, Regenerative Agriculture Alliance & Direct, Strategic Projects, Southern Cross University
Southern Cross University has taken the lead in this space. They are very well equipped, they've got a leading Soil lab in the world, a leading plant lab, they've got farming together so they've got the networks of farmers all over the country they've got capacity and they've got the will and they're brave enough to go out and actually address things in a holistic manner and so they are now right at the cutting edge of this regenerative agriculture movement and leading the way in all things ecology.

 

The value of eco systems

Farmers are deep thinkers and observers and understand their landscape better than anyone. Regenerative agriculture provides hope to balance production levels but allows us to rebuild ecosystems. (3:25)

Dr Charlie Massy - NSW farmer, scientist and author of Call of the Reed Warbler
We are now in the sixth greatest extinction event in the history of Earth this time caused by Humans. And I'm talking about runaway events in climate and biodiversity you know a million species at least now made extinct and without diversity you're not going to have a stable functioning organism, Earth organism. So it's getting pretty alarming the destabilization of a system.

Kerry Cochrane - President, Australian Institute of Ecological Agriculture Cooperative Ltd.
Well agriculture for the last hundred years you could say has been focusing towards what we call the Green Revolution that is how do we reduce as much as we can by putting as much as we can into the soil or into the process of producing food and fibre. Now that sounds good and it's been very good for an improvement in standard of living but there's been outcomes which have done damage to the environment in particular and what has happened is there's been a total devotion to reduction of science to how to look after the parts but not look after the whole.

Dr Charlie Massy
Inherent in any big natural complex adaptive system is a capacity to self organize, self he'll get back to greater complexity stability of health and they do that by choosing solutions that reside within the system which are call emergent properties.

Kerry Cochrane
There are basically two types of systems I think that human beings can relate to one is where they dominate the system and they make sure that all that happens within their control or performs to what they intend.

The other follower of the system is where the farmer or the person sees themselves as part of the web of life integrated within the web of life and they have an understanding that what they do has an impact on so many other things and what regenerative agriculture does it takes a different perspective it turns it all upside down and it makes us look at the whole as well as looking at the part. So we see a different type of agriculture emerging one that I think we need to see based on all this happening around the world at the moment.

Lorraine Gordon - Founder, Regenerative Agriculture Alliance & Director, Strategic Projects, Southern Cross University
Farmers are very deep thinkers and farmers are observers so they know their landscapes better than anyone. They are attached to it as a start and they can see changes they can see something's not right or you know what what is wrong with this picture and they will look and look and question and lie awake at night until they work that out.

So they are the best researchers we have they are applied researchers so they are constantly changing the way they farm to get a better outcome.

Michael Taylor - Farm Forester, Kentucky NSW & Founding Director at Australian Ehtical Merino Growers Co-Op Ltd.
This is why regenerative agriculture for me provides a lot of hope in that we can start to balance not only our production levels but we can start to rebuild the ecosystems and we can look after social well-being and and the communities that are supported by our agricultural systems.

Kerry Cochrane
Southern Cross University is leading the way in this new approach to thinking about agriculture and what more they're thinking about it in a holistic term about functioning of systems and how that is most needed in the way in which we do business on the farm.

 

Is our Environment at threat of collapse?

Charles Massy believes we are at an extraordinary time in the history of humanity and earth. Humans have destroyed forests, increased the size of deserts and reduced the size of agricultural land.
(3:17) 

Dr. Charlie Massy - NSW farmer, scientist and author of Call of the Reed Warbler
We are at an extraordinary time in the history of both humanity and Earth's. In that since the Industrial Revolution we have now post-1950 our activities as an industrial society driven by this great story we tell ourselves and all civilizations have a great story they tell themselves. Ours is this suicidal one of economic rationalism growth for the sake of growth which means endless destruction.

And so particularly say 1960s and 70s on that activity of destroying forests increase in the area of deserts agriculture was now desert.

Pumping up carbon as it's re-burning of coal and fossil fuel. We have this extraordinary earth with its nine interrelated systems that sustains this sort of very thin layer a film if you like around our planet that sustains these conditions for life. Our behavior post 2nd World War is destabilized all of those nine systems.

Terry McCosker - Founder & Director, Resource Consulting Services
Back through history over the last 10,000 years or so you will find civilizations that have collapsed all over the world and they generally collapse when agriculture collapses.

The root cause of all civilization collapses is is environmental damage so it's damage to the water cycle the hydrological cycle its erosion its land degradation its loss of food production often that then leads to things like civil wars and famines and diseases and so on which finishes things off but the root cause is environmental damage.

This is reality we're on a trajectory to nowhere right now and as a human race.

Tim Wright - Holistic Grazier "Lana" Uralla NSW
People wonder why we have tree dieback well a big part of that is the lack of ground cover there's a balance that we've got to try and learn. It's more complicated than than we can nearly comprehend. New England died back was caused from the imbalance. I think the main thing is that we recognize it's complex.

Dr. Charlie Massy
The only thing that's gonna save us is the wholism of regenerative agriculture. You could see that as the next phase for one of a better word the new organic revolution where we do if you like that full circle.

Like the indigenous organic mind back to where we see ourselves as not surviving without nurturing the substrate that sustains us which is Mother Earth and her systems and whether we're going to do that in time as we go up into the Anthropocene it is the question before us but we have to cling to hope and the big hope I see is this new movement of regenerative agriculture understanding of Earth System science and bringing a partnership with the urban consumer and the urban people that are getting into no sustainable energy and better food, healthier food and all that sort of thing.

Terry McCosker
It will change before it reaches disaster.

What the human race tends to do is go right to the brink almost of total collapse before it will change.

 

About the Regenerative Agriculture Alliance

Lorraine Gordon is the founder of the Regenerative Agriculture Alliance (RAA) and Director of Strategic Projects at Southern Cross University. Collaboration is absolutely the key to the regenerative agricultural movement. (1:02)

Lorraine Gordon Introduces the Regenerative Agriculture Alliance.

Collaboration is absolutely the key to the regenerative agricultural movement.

These are very complex problems that we're facing in Australia and globally in our landscapes in our communities everywhere.

We are going to need the smartest minds sitting around the table to be able to solve these problems and help our farmers to become resilient.

So the Regenerative Ag Alliance is bringing together the leading practitioners and leading researchers and academics around Australia with particular expertise in different areas of regenerative agriculture.

It's a very important piece of work and it's also important that the people that are part of the Alliance understand the power of collaborating and understand the power of working together and what that can do to bring about change.