Farmers looking to deliver better outcomes by investing in nature

For the first winter in 30 years, South West dairy farmer Jacqui Biddulph is not flat out rearing around 400 calves. Instead she's pouring all of that care and nurturing into her new babies - close to 1,200 native seedlings! Read on for Jacqui's story...

Jacqui’s seedlings were planted over the past two years, across a 22 hectare piece of bushland.

They are located in a part of her property that she’s sectioned off from grazing, for what Jacqui says is an investment in nature and her farm business.

Keeping her tiny trees and plants alive across the record-breaking 2023/24 dry season though hasn’t been easy.

Jacqui and her seedlings have been battling unusually dry soil conditions and persistent attacks from hungry kangaroos unable to find anything to eat in the neighbouring parched paddocks.

Hinting at a stubborn spirit, Jacqui refused to admit defeat and has instead resorted to a three-hour, twice-weekly hand watering routine plus wire guards for protection from the kangaroos to keep her ‘babies’ alive.

In case you’re wondering what drives this level of dedication – apart from a stubborn streak – Jacqui simply says she knows that “looking after the land makes it work better”.

Put another way, she deeply understands and appreciates the strong connection between the health of her land and its ability to produce and turn a profit for her farm business. It’s what our Sustainable Agriculture focus area is all about!

This month, South West NRM Sustainability and Environment Lead Linda Metz joined Jacqui for a tour of her eucalypt woodland to check on its health and progress.

Jacqui was one of 56 farmers nationally selected to receive funding support under the Australian Government’s $22.3 million Enhancing Remnant Vegetation project, delivered by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

Recognising the dire need to reverse biodiversity decline while knowing that a vast proportion of valuable native bushland is located on private properties, the aim of the project was to reward farmers for helping shift the needle in a positive direction.

The South West NRM Region was one of only six NRM regions throughout Australia selected to trial the approach.

Funding was provided direct to farmers to undertake projects on their properties which could demonstrate a positive environmental outcome and would assist with costs like fencing, plants, weed and pest control.

South West NRM not only helped the Department design the project, we also undertook site assessments to assist with processing applications and then worked with the farmers during the set-up phase to ensure successful project delivery.

Jacqui said from her point of view, the project’s funding opportunity was a no-brainer. Lock up a piece of land that was no good for grazing anyway because its covered in bush, and use it to improve environmental and farm business outcomes.

Through her revegetation project, Jacqui aimed to create connection between two separate plots of woodland that were already providing valuable habitat for native species while improving soil health.

As part of her obligations under the funding agreement, Jacqui will document and report to the Department on her project progress for the next 10 years.

Outcomes are being used to inform current development of the national Nature Repair Market which will ultimately facilitate mass expansion of projects like Jacqui’s.

You can read the Department’s review of the project here.

Jacqui concedes identifying benefits of her project so far, both for the environment and her farm business, is a long game.

But she reports even just one year on, she is seeing positive changes in her land that she hadn’t seen before.

And on top of that, she felt the personal gains of knowing she was making a positive contribution to the world was deeply satisfying as she contemplated retirement from day-to-day dairy farm management.

To learn more, visit the Biodiversity Management section of our Sustainable Agriculture information hub.

We’ll be sure to keep you posted on developments associated with the Australian Government’s Nature Repair Market as we continue work helping farmers realise the dual benefits of sustainability and profitability.

Sustainable Agriculture Information Hub

To learn more about improving sustainability on farm while remaining profitable, visit our dedicated hub.