Successful Queensland regenerative farmers Shane and Shan Joyce have moved on from their property 'Dukes Plain' to start again and restore a degraded landscape to a thriving, productive environment. Join Shane as he shares his experiences regenerating 'Kumbartcho'.

Building farm and community

Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Shan and Shane Joyce

Image courtesy of The Australian Women's Weekly

This update on starting our new farm at Kumbartcho, Kilkivan will be focused on our community involvement.

A large part of our community involvement goes back now some eight years.

When at Dukes Plain, Theodore, we started a “partnership” with Samford Valley Steiner School (SVSS). They have been bringing their Year Nine class out to Dukes Plain for “farm camp” each year during winter. Initially the camp was for one week, however more recently it has grown to three weeks.

The history of our association goes back to my spotting an advertisement in the Biodynamic Agriculture Australia News Leaf. SVSS were seeking a farm in south east Queensland. I stretched the definition of “south east”, and we volunteered, and in the absence of a better offer, were chosen.

I had a friend who worked at SVSS as a gardener. Rob was familiar with the Dukes Plain landscape, and recommended the area as having great potential, despite the distance that they would have to travel to come to this “south east corner” farm!

Well here we are in 2014, having sold Dukes Plain, and deeming running the farm camps there any more far too difficult (the new owners are a corporate and even I have needed “induction” to be on the site).

We offered SVSS the opportunity to come to the new farm at Kilkivan (yes, we are now in the south east corner).

Fortunately we have an old farm house to accommodate groups, and being just three hours from Brisbane, a much shorter journey for the groups.

The association has also included Noosa Pengari Steiner School, and their Year Nine class.

We view these associations as a valuable community service, which gives urban students the opportunity to experience first-hand farm life and work.

Part of our obligation is to have a “mountain” of tasks for the students to complete. Believe me, one can get much work done/many projects completed with a workforce of up to as many as twenty-eight students!

We do a variety of farm tasks, which may include:

  • making and application of Biodynamic preparations,
  • fencing,
  • installation and repair of water infrastructure,
  • bush walking,
  • cleaning out cattle grids,
  • construction of leaky weirs (drawn from Peter Andrews’ Natural Sequence Farming),
  • planting of trees,
  • planting of Vetiver grass in waterways/drainage lines,
  • treating noxious weeds,
  • cutting and collecting fire wood,
  • managing compost toilets (carbon:nitrogen ratio!),
  • management of their own hot water resource (donkey with wood fire),
  • furniture making,
  • sculpting, etcetera...
image of students planting trees

The students get to learn some “life skills” while on camp. One of the many is to learn about Low Stress Stock handling. This methodology (the principles of) can be applied to many aspects of life, from our interaction with other humans to encounters with wild animals while driving.

An appreciation of where food comes from and how it is produced is a big learning for many students (suddenly the piece of meat on a Styrofoam tray under glad wrap has a different meaning!).

Now that the camp is over a three week period, the students get to break through some challenging personal issues. The first week can be challenging (“I want to go home”), the second week is when some order comes into the group, and the third week is the time when many shift to “I don’t want to go home” mode.

For us and the farm the great things are:

  • the great energy of youth which has a big impact on the farm environment,
  • we get lots of work done (while having fun),
  • I get to practiced my memory skills (remembering up to 28 names!),
  • having the association with the schools brings (for a brief period) a community on to the farm and we share food preparation, meals, conversation, and music.

Among the achievements for the students, is that they gain a bigger appreciation of the comforts of home, and their parents! We look forward to continuing this association into the future.

Our other community involvements at this stage are doing a presentation for a local farmers group at a field day, applying the Biodynamic preparations to two neighbouring properties (done by the Samford Valley students by hand), sharing freely knowledge on use of the Biodynamic preparations, and giving Biodynamic soil activator to local people to get them started.

I hope eventually to get involved with the local community garden (all trees and lawn at this stage), and markets (weekly).

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A healthy landscape