The Sustainability Chronicles (Part 1)
There is a lot of responsibility resting on my shoulders. “Me” referring to the new age of country bumpkins. The millennial, if you will, as the term seems to cover everyone under the age of 30 despite being born well before the 2000s. “Me”, “we”, “us”, all inclusive of the up and coming farmer, consultant, stock agent, and most importantly, the consumer.
It's mostly fun and games growing up on a farm. At least until we’re old enough for our parents to start putting the hard word in to do some work. We learn about life, and about death. We learn how to be responsible, to be compassionate, to care for something other than yourself. We also learn how to stay strong in times of utter despair, when floods have washed away half of our hard-chiselled tracks and cut the power to our house. Most importantly, we learn what to value within our world; our land and our animals.
Raise a hand if you hate hearing a herd of heifers bawling at you over a hot wire. We all work incredibly hard to ensure our animals are performing to a high standard, setting up future generations. Quite literally, we are controlling the age-old cliché of “survival of the fittest”. As we start to get clued up on how important being the “fittest” is, we start looking at how we can ensure our systems last for years to come.
Sustainability. It’s a big word with even bigger connotations. Google Dictionary lists it as “voidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance.” But to every young person rising up in the farming industry, sustainability can mean something different.
I grew up in an innovative household. My father practiced as a vet and as a consequence instilled a strong “animal comes first” mentality. The simple matter of just “looking after” our animals wasn’t enough, with one parent working off farm and 4 children, 6 chickens, 7 horses, 6 dogs, 4 (give or take) cats and couple of guinea pigs to look after, we needed to find a way to make farming simpler. So began the Animal Centred Approach, sitting around the kitchen table trying to figure out how we could make this easier on ourselves and on the animals. We needed to decrease stress and manipulate our grass to grow smarter. This Animal Centred idea is different to conventional thinking but to be honest, even at my age, it made sense; Improve farm performance by allowing the animal’s welfare and nutritional needs to guide decisions around feeding, pasture management and soil amendment.
A friend of mine described sustainability as “a way of farming in which generation after generation are able to continue farming with minimal impact to the land.” It’s our turn, we are the ones to take on the reins, handle bars and tractor wheels. We have a chance to make an impact on the way we run our operations and the way we present our produce to ever-savvy consumers. We have a chance to leave a footprint on our world that is felt for generations to come. But the big question is HOW. I may seem pretty waffly now, all rainbows and grass growing but stick with me. The Animal Centred Approach and challenging how we run our operations; the future is pretty big but we have an even bigger opportunity to make a difference. We’d be silly not to take it!