RECOMMENDED E BOOKS FROM OUR ONLINE BOOKSHOP

•    E books available to buy and immediately download to a computer or reader
•    Our E Books contain many high resolution coloured images and illustrations
•    Lots of titles written by our principal and academic staff
•    Click on any of the titles below to visit the bookshop and see an outline of that title
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
An extract from the book: Sustainable Agriculture, by John Mason (Our Principal)
 
CHANGING AN EXISTING FARM TO A SUSTAINABLE PROPERTY
 
It can be both disruptive and expensive to change an existing farm from a ‘traditional’ operation, to a ‘sustainable’ operation. The change should not, however, be expected to take place overnight. A realistic approach is often to convert to a low input-sustainable system over a period of 5-10 years, one paddock at a time. There is no sense in trying to make a farm environmentally sustainable overnight if in doing so you lose both financial sustainability and ownership of the farm.
 
Making the change will always involve some trade-offs. For example, the quality or quantity of production might decrease, but the cost of production might also be reduced. In balance the profitability remains the same. The farm will have lost very little in the short term in order to achieve sustainability in the long term.
 
Other changes that can be gradually introduced might include:
  • reducing or eliminating the use of pesticides (eg. by embracing integrated pest management or biological controls)
  • changing cultivation methods to reduce damage to soils
  • changing or rotating the varieties of plants being grown as crops or pastures
  • changing the types of animals being farmed, or managing animals in a different way (eg. restricting their movement).
 
Perhaps the most important decision a farmer will make is deciding what to grow. Traditional products such as wheat, sheep and cattle have long been considered ‘safe’ options in terms of having an assured marketplace - but more and more traditional farmers are facing bankruptcy. Farms that producing one product are not protected against changes in market trends. Diversification allows the farm to rely on more than one product, thus supporting it through times of market fluctuation. By diversifying and producing several different products, the disadvantages of a monoculture and all the associated problems that arise from weather, difficult growing seasons and market changes are minimised.  
 
Diversification advantages include:
  • providing a buffer against financial catastrophe if one of the products fails
  • averaging profits and losses over the different products
  • providing an opportunity for value adding by combining two products (eg. cheese and herbs)
 
Diversification will allow the farm to be sustainable, both ecologically and financially. While financial considerations will always influence the final product mix, all farm products must be assessed in term of their effect on the environment. Some things that should be considered when deciding what to produce include:
  • choosing plants and animals that are more drought tolerant, require less maintenance and feeding, attract fewer pests, are disease resistant, have less physical impact on soil and resources.
  • the use and/or creation of alternative food sources, eg. fodder tree plantations, roadside grazing.
  • dual-use products (eg. plants that provide fruit can also provide fodder or support bees; sheep that produce both wool and milk).
 
There are socioeconomic and political considerations when converting to sustainable farming as well.  For example, many Government programs still favour monocultures over mixed cropping.  Many financial institutions feel that agricultural chemicals are the best tools for protecting money they have loaned out, and discourage other methods of pest management.
 
The key to successfully converting from a conventional to a sustainable farming system is good planning.  Change can be a destructive factor in an agricultural system, but planning ahead means change is not a surprise to the manager.