Sustainable Farming Series – Part 1

July 2nd, 2021

What is a definition of modern sustainable farming? In some ways it’s become a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Sustainable farming  has become clouded with marketing terms in many cases to gain sales growth advantage. So who and what can we trust?

My aim over the next few months is to give some insight as to what I have experienced over the past few decades and my learnings.

This is not to say that my views are right or wrong in the eyes of other practitioners that may have come to other conclusions over time. My aim is to encourage discussion, experimentation and collaboration to evolve our community thinking with-in the farming sector. Collaborative effort is a social process.

My first topic is to give sustainability a structural road map.

My early experiences with sustainability began around 1988 when I attended a bio-dynamic conference in Kyabram Victoria at a local farmers orchard.

There was over 120 people that attended and was the first time I encountered the philosophy to the late Alex Podolinsky. This not only opened my eyes but my mind and imagination into the invisible glory of the soil.

Since this early period there has been an explosion of sustainability and environmental methods, systems, certifying organisations and spin off groups such as GMO free, free range, grass fed, low input, chemical free, etc.

Recently carbon neutral, zero waste plus others have been added to our sustainability push. It has worked well from the point of view that is becoming front and centre of our societal thinking but not all things are equal and there is confusion as to what really works and what does not.

Many so-called methods are just simply statements that have no measurements nor proof whatsoever.

Illustrated is my roadmap to try and make sense of defining sustainability (this will evolve further over time).

Sustainable farming… the big umbrella

System & Methods (established)

Systems & Methods with no proof (statement based)

Measurement & proof systems

The Drivers

Why do we choose a particular path? What are the main drivers?

There is so much to choose from in the current marketplace of “sustainability” making decisions confusing for many Farmers.

I have been in this situation several times over the past few decades as new systems and methods have emerged and many fallen away.

To manage this dilemma my approach is to firstly engage with your local farming community and come to a consensus as to what system/method will collectively suit your community.

A group of like minds with common values will more than likely develop and evolve the system/method to suit your unique regions soils, geography, and peoples. This is what creates lasting change and a spirit of community cooperation and pride.

I use this example because this what has happened in my region of McLaren Vale. This model has been successful in many other wine regions and farming communities also.

A community system/method that evolves can introduce change with more ease especially as new technology, ideas and farming techniques present us.

Next steps

In my next sessions I will attempt to delve into what various systems and methods attempt to deliver to farming.

Also to venture into how we understand and read our soils and landscapes. We must understand how we hurt the earth before we change what we do.

Pridham Viticulture and Sustainability fit together, it’s what we think and breathe. It has become culturalized.

Our passionate and cooperative community in McLaren Vale and Fleurieu regions havwe worked collaboratively to develop techniques that continually evolve and adapt to our changing environment.

We never stop thinking, we always ask questions, we never stop learning.

That is what we do.

Ask yourself the question – what is sustainability to you.

Thanks for reading, Ben

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