Sunday, April 01, 2007

Carrying the flame to Grafton far away

Louisa and I got back late yesterday after travelling 10hours by road (with an hour stop in Armidale to watch the Autumn Festival Parade and an hour in Tamworth to buy groceries). We had attended the most invigorating Landcare Farming Forum, put on by the Northern Rivers Catchment Management Authority and Landcare. We spoke on the topic "Future trading in soil carbon" and attracted a fair crowd, given there were 3 other streams going on, one of them featuring Allan Yeomans whose book Priority One is os justly famous. The highlight of the event was the key note speaker Dr John Williams, Commissioner of Natural Resources in NSW. He spelled out in simple terms the links between man and nature, and at one stage I heard him say the words, that setting the planet to rights is a journey that starts in the hearts and minds of the each one of us. Profound words.
John WIlliams, Commissioner for Natural Resources met Coalition member Craig Carter who had delivered a paper on Natural Sequence Farming. Craig's weirs leak.Dr Williams was chief of CSIRO Land and Water until 2004. Later that day, during a panel session, he said that my contention that soil carbon is hard to measure was not right. It is easy to measure for trading. I should have added the words "economically". But it was heartening to hear the Commissioner make an empassioned plea for farmers to be rewarded for storing soil carbon. Another highlight was hearing Gary Zimmer, a biological farmer from Winsconsin, USA. Gary is an educator and consultant and farmer. He says he doesn't expect you to remember much of what he has to say. He just wants to "spark" you up to want to learn more, and this he does. Gary speaks at the speed of sound - some of his words leave his mouth so quickly they reach you ears well before words he said before them do... if you get my drift. He is full bottle on soil chemistry, and how. Gary Zimmer has the gift of the gab and great information to go with it.

But he's not just all left brain. He has that special right brain intuition that few others have - Christine Jones is one - of just feeling that a farm is in synch or not, no matter how good or bad it appears. His was a special session and he is a special man. Other highlights for me were Cam McKellar's presentation on his biological farm near SPring Ridge. (I've asked Cam for one of his photos.) And Dr Lukas van Zweiten who prefaced his presentation on biochar with the immortal pronouncement that Australian soils are too buggered (my words, not his) to store much carbon (hence we must buy char) which raised my hackles, but we chatted later and he promised to send me some information. The New England looks a picture and we yearn for it still (we met in Armidale and lived there for several years). There's plenty of soils carbon growing under the pastures northeast of Armidale, I'll bet.
It was great to see Sally Wright in action. Every CMA should be trying to poach her.

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