Small farms boosted by grant funding

Small farms boosted by grant funding

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Many of the State's regional grower groups which often survive grant round to grant round breathed a sigh of relief after being awarded funds from the Small Farms Small Grants program.

MANY of the State's regional grower groups which often survive grant round to grant round breathed a sigh of relief after being awarded funds from the Small Farms Small Grants program.

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Now in its third funding round, the Federal government invested more than $5 million in the Small Farms Small Grants program which aims to assist farmers garner new skills and knowledge to improve sustainability and their bottom line.

The grants were awarded to farming and landcare groups for various projects including

sustainable farming education, agroforestry, pest management and improving soil health.

The Fitzgerald Biosphere Group Inc in the Great Southern was awarded $43,000 for its project to turn unproductive land into sustainable grazing assets. p More information see the online version of the story. using the CSIRO's Enrich Project model.

The organisation's executive officer Leonie McMahon said the group's aim was to help farmers in the area gain access to expertise that would assist them in adopting revegetation practices to make their marginal land productive again.

"This project came about because we had many farmers who were telling us they were investigating various ways to improve their soil's health on their properties, which were degraded, bare, saline or unproductive for any number of reasons," Ms McMahon said.

"We had been working with a native plant agronomist who told us about the Enrich project that investigated a whole series of native plants to find out what their potential was for livestock systems.

"This money will assist us in helping our farmers to implement those programs."

Federal Member for O'Connor Rick Wilson.

Federal Member for O'Connor Rick Wilson.

Federal member for O'Connor Rick Wilson said the pure landcare movement 20 years ago which had morphed into a land management movement had been a positive step for the agricultural industry.

"The most sustainable farmers are usually those who are the most profitable and the most profitable farmers tend to be those who invest money back into landcare and other sustainable practices," Mr Wilson said.

"It's a good initiative by the government to be focussing on this land management area and I'm sure this money will give the staff working in these organisations a little bit of security for the next 6-12 months."

Ms McMahon said the Federal government's grant programs were critical for regional grower groups who were commonly under resourced.

"In recent years, the funding environment has gotten tighter and tighter and for us to provide services to our farmers we need to tap into grants like these," she said.

"We are always searching for funding as we have more projects and services that we would like to deliver than we have funding for."

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