Just how clean, green and sustainable are we at Mountain Creek Farm anyway?
Very few things in life are black and white, and in answer to this question, we are probably a dirty shade of grey. After all, we are members of the first or affluent world, with all the baggage that this entails. We consume more than our fair share of the planet’s resources simply by being affluent (by global standards) Australians.
So in an attempt to reduce our ecological footprint we have taken the following steps, in no particular order:
- We are part of the green power network in NSW, and generate 10 kilowatts of solar electricity on farm. We use approximately 3 of the kilowatts we generate and sell the balance to the NSW electricity grid.
The grid interactive system we have purchased is much larger than we need at this point in time. The reason for this is that when electric cars become readily available and more affordable we will switch our 'daily drivers' to 100% electric vehicles powered by the sun.
- Our farming systems minimise inputs (less energy) and are geared to carbon sequestration in the soil. Our farming methods (biodynamics and holistic management) foster humus rich soils. Even in the worst drought on record 2005 - 2010 we were 'growing topsoil' here at Mountain Creek. An interesting fact; there is more carbon stored in healthy temperate grassland soils than in a tropical rainforest. Surprised? So was I, and I'm grateful to Dr. Christine Jones for this fact.
- We are enhancing the biodiversity on the farm, by fencing off over a third of the land area for the exclusive use of wildlife and native plant species. This enables multi-levelled habits to develop. We are progressively fencing the stock out of the dams and creeks, and extending the reticulated trough system. These wet/water areas provide habitats for all manner of birds, reptiles, insects and so on. We have also added three species of native fish to our main dams, to compliment the yabbies, turtles and other wildlife.
- Tree planting is an ongoing project at Mountain Creek Farm. We have planted over 25,000 trees since 2003 and, thanks to my dear old mum, we are growing our own seedlings from seed gathered on the farm. These are mainly seedlings of the remnant gums, many of which are dying due to the drought, the 2003 'Canberra' fires, and perhaps changing climate.
- One tool in a farmers' kit is fire, and it's a good tool if used wisely. We use fire sparingly and prefer to use our industrial wood chipper where possible. Our shredder/chipper will chip branches to 90mm (3.5 inches), which we then use as mulch on our soils and around the base of trees. Branches larger than this are cut into fire wood and dried for two years before burning. So when trees are in the wrong place or come down after a storm, we shred rather than burn. We also plant 5 to 1 to replace those we remove, and we believe this is a responsible use and renewal of a valuable resource.
- We purchase locally or bioregionaly for preference, and organic and biodynamic where possible. The impact of this small act is hard to calculate, but do we really need fresh summer fruits in winter when they travel thousands of kilometres, pouring carbon into the atmosphere? Californian oranges, and Peruvian asparagus, for sale in Australia? Sheer madness!
- Rainwater is collected from the house and shed roofs for domestic consumption. Rain is also stored in dams and then reticulated though a pipe and trough system for stock use. Four springs on the property have been turned into wells. The spring water is piped to the house, hard as nails and very healthy. We believe in the efficient use of this scarce resource; we do not irrigate pasture or use fossil water (bores).
- The construction of ‘leaky' dams or weirs, on creeks and watercourses, is in progress to rehydrate the land. This idea has been around for a while, most recently popularised by Peter Andrews. We aim to slow the water flow thereby rehydrating surrounding areas, and minimising top soil and carbon losses. These leaky dams act as sponges, that once full release clean filtered water back into the system as environmental flows.
- We sell our product direct to eaters. This dramatically reduces the 'food miles' our produce travel.
- Of course we do all the usual things like refuse, reduce, reuse, repair and recycle. We use low energy globes, have installed dual flush toilets, 5 star shower heads, 5 star appliances and so on.
- On a lighter note we have invested in a small commercial paper shredder. This toy means we shred all waste paper and spread the paper as mulch around the the trees. This reduces moisture evaporation around the root zone and sequesters carbon at the same time. Most newspapers use vegetable dyes these days, so we are less concerned about the heavy metal content of the inks. Even so we don't use the paper mulch around fruit trees and in the veggie garden.
So are we doing enough?
Probably not, but the little we are doing keeps us busy enough. We know the 'triple bottom line' of environment, finance and social to be a three legged stool - remove any one leg and you eventually fall, lengthen or shorten one leg and it is uncomfortable. We just wish our 'leaders' and governments would realise this too.© 2007-2012 by Michael Croft and Mountain Creek Farm, All rights reserved.