A Year in the Life of a RALF

Wow. What a year 2022 has been! We have achieved many great things this year and communicated, worked and shared out success with some fantastic people in the Northern Ag Region and beyond.

As this year wraps up for Christmas and the New Year, we want to share a snippet of the monthly work of our RALF team with some of our highlights from the last twelve months.

January saw us start our first full month with a solo RALF. With summer in full swing, it wasn’t long until Belle ventured out of the office and joined our friends at the West Midlands Group for their ‘Pasture Drive Thru’ event looking at summer grasses and soil health. This event was a perfect link to our own Growing Great Ground Project, and we were able to liaise with the WMG, contractors and landholders around perennial pasture seeding.

In February, Belle and a few other NACC NRM team members started the journey through the Drought Resilience Leadership Development Program (DRLDP). We also facilitated a ‘Building a Carbon Farm’ workshop in Perenjori this month with topics including carbon emissions, soil carbon projects, ACCU trading, Clean Energy Regulator and DPIRDs Carbon Farming Land Restoration Program.

In March, the NBG and DPIRD facilitated their annual aerial control program for feral pigs in the region. Belle and Jarna headed out to help the ground crew undertaking necropsies, getting a very smelly yet interesting insight into the secret lives (and insides) of one of Australia’s worst agricultural pests. This is a collaborative activity that Belle and Jarna have been involved in for the last four years, and we can(t) wait to help out again next year.

The next highlight was the Low Rainfall Zone Dryland Farming National Community of Practice that we are involved in. In April, the CoP hosted a teleconference with Tony Craddock from Pinion Advisory to share with us the importance of soil and tissue testing in crops. This was possible with funding secured by Zoey Starkey, the RALF for Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board.

In May, the National RALF conference was held. Although scheduled, packed and ready to go, Belle couldn’t attend in person due to the last-minute rescheduling and unreliability of regional flights. With a few hours on hold with the airline and many tears, Belle was able to watch the conference virtually. Our favourite topics of the conference were; Productive Saltland Pastures in Southern Western Australia, MLA’s Beef Sustainability framework, Indigenous engagement through the RALF role, Dung Beetle Community of Practice and Positive actions for a changing climate.

June was the month for reporting and finalising the 2021/2022 RALF work plan and starting on the new 2022/2023 RALF workplan. It was also the month of our team retreat to Mt Gibson where we paid a visit to our friends at the Australian Wildlife Conservancy.

In July, we welcomed our newest RALF, Shannah, to the NACC NRM team. Shan got straight on board on her second day, heading to the Mingenew Irwin Group’s Ladies Breakfast Field Walk that the RALF team were able to support.

We were in the Northern Ag Region’s peak of Agriculture events season in August and September. During these two months, we attended eight different Grower Group events, including Spring Field Days, attended and supported three NACC NRM events, the Mingenew Expo, Talkin’ Soil Health, and the AgZero 2030’s Climate Solutions and Navigating to Net Zero Transition for WA Ag.

We were lucky enough to be able to support the Southern Rangelands Pastoral Alliance Industry Forum in October. This is a space into which we don’t regularly have the opportunity to venture, as the Northern Ag Region has only a small number of landholders who are pastoralists and the NAR only covers a small section of the pastoral region. This was a fantastic event, where participants were given a chance to learn about issues and new innovative techniques relevant to their production practices and share information with other local landholders. We were glad to expand our networks and learn from many relevant stakeholders in this area.

November saw us celebrate National Ag Day, which we celebrated with local farmers and industry representatives. It was a great way to celebrate Outcome 6 of the National Landcare Program; “By 2023, there is an increase in the capacity of agricultural systems to adapt to significant changes in climate and market demands for information on provenance and sustainable production.” For National Ag Day, we hosted an informative barbeque breakfast with our friends at the Midwest Food Industries Alliance, featuring all local produce.

We celebrated World Soil Day at the SoilsWest and Soil Science Australia’s event at the WA State Library. This event allowed us to network with, and learn from a passionate community of researchers, producers, industry, and students sharing their perspectives on why soil matters. And to finish 2022, we got to catch up with the other WA RALFs in December for our annual WA RALF face to face catchup. At the RALF catchup, we took time to discuss what each RALF team has been doing in their regions and some of their highlights. We used this time to bounce ideas off each other. We also talked to multiple industry representatives, including the GGA Drought Hub, DPIRD Low Carbon Futures team members, DPRID Plant, and plant product traceability team.

Shannah said her highlight for the year was “being able to meet so many amazing landholders within the Northern Ag Region and industry representatives.”

Belle’s highlight was ‘welcoming Shan to the RALF team and being able to venture about the beautiful NAR and support the fantastic work happening here in the sustainable agriculture space.’

We want to thank all the amazing farmers, volunteers, community members, grower groups, landcare groups and industry representatives who have helped us with such a successful year of “RALFing” around in the Northern Agricultural Region. We cannot wait to see you all in 2023 with fresh ideas for another wonderful year!

This project is supported by the Australian Government’s Regional Landcare Partnerships initiative of the National Landcare Program.

Annabelle Garratt & Shannah Kanny – Regional Agriculture Landcare Facilitators

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