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The Regional Agriculture Landcare Facilitator (RALF) programme is a national network involving facilitators in each of the 56 natural resource management regions across Australia. They work to support Landcare and production groups to adopt sustainable farm and land management practices, while protecting Australia’s landscapes and reefs.
The RALF position is funded and supported by the Australian Government – Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment as part of the of the Regional Land Partnerships (RLP) program. Over five years, the program provides $450 million, shared across the country (FY18 – 23).
Gillian Barbat is the RALF in the Mackay Whitsunday Isaac (MWI) region. This important role is to facilitate and support the farming communities, provide access to resources and extension while supporting the continuance of a vibrant network of peer-to-peer sharing and growth, more specifically:
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The RALF role facilitates key annual events, including the Healthy Soils Symposium held in late November, and the Innovative Grazing Forum in March/April.
Early each year, the Grazing Forum attracts more than 100 landholders, keen to discover and learn about a wide range of grazing related topics such as herd management, genetics, pasture and weed management, biosecurity updates and managing climate variability by adopting improved grazing management practices.
The Forum is developed specifically for graziers and provides one of the only local opportunities for networking amongst grazing industry representatives, professionals, service providers, and producers. Since 2017, Reef Catchments has livestreamed and recorded these major events, which can be viewed on Reef Catchments’ YouTube channel. Furthermore, event presentation pdfs covering several topics can be found on Reef Catchments Resources tab.
FY23 Sustainable Grazing Forum is yet to be finalised, however the event will run over three days, offering two days in the field sandwiched around an invigorating and innovative round of presentations by experts from across the region and country.
Soil health is one of the biggest challenges facing the region’s agricultural producers and the RALF program enables delivery of the annual Healthy Soils Symposium which provides information from leading soils and land management experts, while supporting peer-to-peer knowledge exchange.
In 2022 the 11th Annual event engaged delegates with presentations from:
With an additional field day added to the program, local landholders took advantage of the opportunity to visit two distinct properties. The first field day brought delegates to Abundance Gully, near Sarina. There, the dedication of owners Beau North and Katherine Fausett to convert this once sugar cane farm to a grazing enterprise, as an organic and wildlife friendly property generated much conversation and discussion from delegates, Tim Marshall, and Kym Kruse.
All presentations of the Conference were recorded and will be available with videos from the Field Days, on Reef Catchments’ YouTube channel. Presenter PowerPoints and information shares will soon be freely accessible on the website Resources tab.
On the third day of the Symposium, we travelled north to Jeppesen Farming Co near Bloomsbury. Tony and his team brought home the benefits of addressing landscape hydrology, soil conservation and soil regeneration practices to increase farm output quantity and quality.
The RALF program strongly encourages workshops that are directly related to environmental outcomes while supporting industry specific activities that foster agricultural productivity. Gilly urges producers and growers to reach out and guide her on the topics of interest to ensure diverse and targeted capacity building activities can be provided to the agricultural sector in the region. At the end of FY21, unallocated funds offered regional graziers a subsidised fee for a 2.5-day Grazing Clinic, facilitated by Resource Consultancy Service (RCS). Learnings from the Clinic encourage landholders to see their role as grass (fodder) producers, keeping soil and plant health foremost in their herd management plan, resulting in the adoption of variable stocking rates and improved land management practices.
In 2022 Gillian led a small team of industry experts and graziers to review and update Reef Catchments’ ABCD Management Practice Framework for Grazing, which provides graziers and consultants with a comprehensive, technical, and user-friendly program to adopt sustainable and regenerative grazing practices.
Other activities facilitated and/or supported by the RALF role include:
Working closely with region landholder group, Central Queensland Soil Healthy Systems, the RALF invited Adam Willson to the region to present at a morning field walk held at Nannu Johnny’s Farm, Wallingford, where more than 20 horticulturalists met to deepen their knowledge of soil health and the direct impacts this has on their produce and the health of consumers. The invitation extended to across the region for an information share that same evening as Adam revealed his research and experience in organic, synthetic input free food production. Kim Kleidon, regional freelance writer and presenter, passionate for natural resource management, deftly captured much of the detail shared during Adam’s visit in a podcast, supported by Project Catalyst. Link: Adam Willson – Project Catalyst Podcast
The RALF in the Mackay Whitsunday region partners, and collaborates, with numerous groups including:
Funding source: This project is a Reef Catchments (Mackay Whitsunday Isaac) initiative, primarily through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.