WA farmers in the hunt for Eureka prize

30 Aug, 2011 04:00 AM
Fleur Grieve, Ajana, with daughter Malia, is a participant in the Climate Champion program.
Fleur Grieve, Ajana, with daughter Malia, is a participant in the Climate Champion program.

FOUR WA farmers are part of a group that has been nominated as a finalist for the 2011 Australian Museum Eureka Prize for motivating action to reduce the impacts of climate change.

There are 34 farmers from throughout Australia who participated in the Climate Champion program which is in the running to win the $10,000 Eureka Prize for Advancement of Climate Change.

Ajana producer Fleur Grieve is a participant in the program and said it was a way of disseminating information throughout the community, particularly scientific information, about climate variability, climate change and adapting to climate.

"There's so much information that there can be a bit of an information overload and it's actually about getting the information out there that people can trust," Ms Grieve said.

"Research has shown farmers respond better to information gained from their peers rather than supposed experts but the flow of information worked both ways.

"We feed information to farmers but also pass information back to the researchers about what people want and see as valuable, and what resources would help them make decisions about adapting."

She has found the most effective way of doing that was through her existing networks and at field days and grower group meetings.

Ms Grieve has worked with various grower groups like the Northern Agri-Group and participated in farmer workshops with a climate or adaptation angle such as those organised by CSIRO or the Liebe Group.

"We also have a website called Climate Kelpie, which brings together all the information on the Climate Champion program, and also all weather, adaptation and research information into one place, without people having to trawl the web themselves," Ms Grieve said.

Ms Grieve grew up on a farm in Ajana in the north east agricultural region.

"We're the third most northern farm in WA and then it starts to go to pastoral country," Ms Grieve said.

Ms Grieve also works as a rural financial counsellor and said adapting to farming on the margins of the agricultural region meant taking a diverse approach to business and spreading risk.

Her father, Bob Porter had done a lot of landcare work and won a number of landcare awards and Ms Grieve said they had revegetated their property and protected a lot of remnant vegetation with 15 kilometres through the middle of the farm all protected from livestock.

Large-scale mallee plantings not only protected and beautified the landscape but will also hopefully earn carbon credits in the future.

They reduced risk further by having a sharefarmer running the 12,000 hectare farm of which only 8000ha was now cropped.

"If you crop your whole farm and then you don't have a good season, it's a higher risk," Ms Grieve said.

"So a lower risk way for us to farm is to concentrate on better producing areas."

She also manages a nature-based farm tourism business which runs eco-educational and wildflower tours for school kids and tourists.

"For me, the benefits of diversification are not just about money but also making it a better place to live," Ms Grieve said.

"You maintain everything, you look after your bush and you see all those natural resources as your assets."

She said seasonal variability could be managed by access to good information so you could make the necessary business decisions.

"So if the season is unfolding in a way that isn't positive, you actually know where your cut-off points are and whether you're going to continue to invest in your crop," Ms Grieve said.

"Obviously there has been a lot of focus on weather forecasting, not just weekly, fortnightly or monthly, but actual seasonal forecasting."

She said farming was not just about climate change, but also operating a business.

"The knowledge and adaptation is already actually happening and the program is about gathering that off people and finding out how people make decisions and what's important to them to be able to continue doing what they're doing," Ms Grieve said.



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