Sheep enjoying the pastures on Neil Stuart’s farm. Photo by Amanda Cox.

Saving the farm, and the farmers

An ANU ecology group is working with farmers to improve agricultural practices that not only help the environment, but also help the lives and finances of farmers. AMANDA COX reports.

Driving out of Canberra, it doesn’t take long for the landscape to change – concrete bus shelters and roundabouts quickly give way to green, open spaces.

As you pass the border into New South Wales, these open spaces become vaster, the grass more yellow. Heading towards Yass, you may be tempted to stop at one of the many wineries.

But the further north you drive, the more the land looks worn. Sheep pace across barren slopes on hot days, searching for the odd tree to shelter under. There is a sense of toil, of good people working hard to make a living.

In much of south-east Australia, this is what agricultural land looks like.

When you arrive at Neil Stuart’s farm between Yass and Boorowa, however, something is different – and it’s not just the freshly baked cakes ready for morning tea.

“This farm is in far better condition than it was 20 years ago,” he says.

In March, the grass is still yellow, but is longer than on surrounding properties, and there is an abundance of trees.