Farmers from the Canberra region form a community around sustainable practices

Following the 2019 drought and the Black Summer wildfires, some farmers in the Canberra region decided to do things differently. But in their efforts to improve their own properties, they eventually formed a new community with a focus on sustainability.

Inspired by prominent regenerative farmers such as Charlie Massy, ​​many of the landowners, who regularly meet and visit each other’s farms, hope to learn new practices, improve sustainability and protect their properties from future natural disasters.

Regenerative farming involves the use of techniques not typically used in the agricultural sector to help improve the health of the land.

These techniques can include installing leaking dams on properties, controlling water flows, growing native plants in paddocks, and taking measures to improve soil health so that it retains more moisture, such as planting it for shorter periods of time. leaving smaller paddocks of livestock.

“Everyone has their own understanding of what regenerative farming is, but I think I’m leaving your land in a better condition than when you arrived,” said Cate Thomas, who lives on an estate in Gundaroo.

A man in a brown coat and an akubra hat is holding a chicken.
Different farmers find that different techniques work better on their properties.ABC News: Antoinette Radford

Murray Prior also owns a property in Gundaroo. He moved to the country in 2018 and said he had noticed improvements since he started using regenerative techniques.

Drought a catalyst for change

A man in a hat looks at the ground
Cristian Gordon believes the country will fend for itself, given the chance. ABC News: Antoinette Radford

Many involved with the Gundaroo Regenerative Land Management group were inspired to change the way they did things on their properties after the 2019 drought.

Farmer Cristian Gordon moved to Gundaroo at the height of the drought.

“That dam got lower and lower and lower as the drought continued, and we decided there had to be something more we could do to improve things,” he said.

“When the drought broke out, we decided there was something we had to do, that we could do better to help our country protect itself from the next one.”

A man in a blue shirt with a vest and a hat smiles at the camera
Cristian Gordon decided to do things differently after the drought of 2019.ABC News: Antoinette Radford

Others, such as Mr Prior, also believe that improving the health of properties can ensure that the land is in the best possible position to cope with future droughts.

Community learning from each other

It was finding other like-minded landowners such as Mr Gordan and Mr Prior that inspired Ms Thomas in the first place to form the Gundaroo Regenerative Land Management group, with the aim of learning new practices from landowners in the same region.

But the group has grown into a larger community than they originally thought possible.

“We have just started a home visit to his… [a neighbour’s] took place in November last year,” said Ms Thomas.

“There were probably about 24 people there, so we started a Facebook page.”

The group now has 87 members.

A woman in a cap and glasses smiles at the camera
The regenerative farming group provides a community for the likes of Cate Thomas who recently moved to the area.ABC News: Antoinette Radford

“I read a lot of books, but nothing beats being out in the country and seeing what can be done and what the difference is.

“There’s a responsibility to this country, given what we’ve done with it over the past 200 years.”

Ms Thomas said through the groups that she had learned how to implement more sustainable techniques in her property management to ensure the land could “recover” from previous years.

Mr Gordon agreed, saying it was great to be surrounded by other like-minded people.

“Canberra’s region is great. It has a very good community,” he said.