Lynne Strong wins inaugural Bob Hawke Landcare Medal
This is our story...
Like many family business the Clover Hill Dairies team of Michael, Lynne and Nicholas have a different vision for the business. What we do have in common is the mission to “be” the image we want our customers to see. Our customers want to purchase from farmers who practice the things they value – whether it be animal welfare or environmental protection. They want food produced in a way that is consistent with their own personal values and our aim has been to develop a highly efficient dairy system on a small acreage that meets or exceeds those consumer expectations. We know that building trust with consumers will be what sets apart the successful primary producers of the future.
We have worked on all fronts to minimise Clover Hill's environmental footprint. Effluent recycling systems ensure waste is turned into grass, and not allowed to fill waterways. Laneways and off-stream troughing systems maintain a separation between the natural environment and the farming environment. Pastures and fertiliser are carefully matched, to ensure minimal leaching of nutrient in Jamberoo's high-rainfall environment. High production per cow and hectare allows us to focus on minimising emission intensity.
We take every importunity to communicate our story that intensified farming and the environment can happily co-exist. Through extensive engagement with Landcare and programs like the Art4agriculture initiatives, a regular stream of visitors passes through the dairy, taking away an impression of farming as consumers would like it to be: productive, environmentally sustainable and picturesque.
THE MILK BUSINESS
Whilst the two farms are located within two kilometres the topography is very different.
The home farm Clover Hill (Farm 1) is situated on the northeast face of Saddleback Mountain at Jamberoo NSW. Located at the headwater of three major tributaries of the Minnamurra River, a sensitive wetland and mangrove environment, Clover Hill is 100 ha in total, of which only 50ha is farmed. The remaining 50ha contains large areas of important high conservation value remnant rainforest and is fenced off to prevent stock access.
Clover Hill is unique not only is it located in very steep rainforest country it is also part of a dairy-centric rural residential subdivision of blocks ranging from 0.4ha to 40ha. The farm and the 12 rural residential landholders have formed an incorporated landcare group to work together to protect and enhance the unique community environment of farming land, rainforest and waterways and ensure the dairy farm is a long term thriving commercial enterprise.
Our commitment to stewardship starts from the ground up. We focus on maintaining good soil fertility and structure and grass cover with pastures based on kikuyu and Italian ryegrasses. This has helped avoid the problems of erosion, soil loss and pugging associated with other high-intensity farms.
At Clover Hill we milk the fresh herd (up to 150 days in milk) three times daily.
Lemon Grove Research Farm PL (Farm 2) was established in 2008 to diversify our enterprise. It is 60ha of alluvial river flats at the head of the sensitive Minnamurra River flood plain. The farm is leased and we milk the 150 days in milk plus cows 3 times daily here and also undertake agronomic and pharmaceutical milk trials.
This farm also has a high urban interface being located adjacent to the Jamberoo Township and receives 33% less rainfall than Clover Hill.
RESEARCH AND INNOVATION
Recognising farmers learn from other farmers and are motivated by seeing the science work in their own backyards they are actively engaging with government to ensure funding for on farm extension is seen as high priority.
From a grass roots perspective Lynne is critically aware of the need for research to deliver a good return on investment in the shortest turnaround time.
For the Clover Hill Dairies team we are excited by research that could
Lynne is a champion of targeted research and was excited by the research opportunities leasing Lemon Grove could potentially provide
The research trial, made possible by funding from the Australian Government’s Caring for our Country Program began in early 2010 and is a partnership between Clover Hill Dairies and SBScibus dairy consultant Dr Neil Moss. It is conducted on a 12ha site on our leased property Lemon Grove Research Farm.
COW TO CONSUMER
Beyond best farming practices the Clover Hill Dairies team is committed to
1. Forging cross community partnerships to secure our social licence to operate and right to farm.
On farm a key success factor in the development and implementation of Clover Hill Dairies sustainability plan is our commitment to remain ahead of the curve by examining closely where society is heading and the environmental challenges arising and moving into that space with clear goals and areas of expertise.
We protect our right to farm by actively involving local communities, communicating our journey and involving them in on farm natural resource management activities. We speak to their children in our locals schools and employ their youth on our farm.
We actively seek information from industry experts, natural resource management agencies and research scientists about new technologies and concepts that can improve resource use efficiency whilst enhancing environmental outcomes.
We work closely with the landholders on our rural residential subdivision at Clover Hill. We have engaged a professional bush regeneration team to maintain and enhance our high conversation value rainforest country which is home to endangered ecological communities and threated and vulnerable flora and fauna.
Our commitment to pursuing environmental excellence whilst improving productivity outcomes is highly valued by the Australian community as witnessed by our 2010 National Landcare Primary Producer Award. Of particular value is our dedication to showcasing sustainable farming practices to government agencies, regional NRM bodies, schools and local government.
In 2012 partner Lynne Strong was awarded the first Bob Hawke Landcare Award. The Bob Hawke Landcare Award celebrates an individual who has been involved in championing the Landcare ethic and inspiring others to take action on their own property or through a Landcare group. This award acknowledges an individual who has demonstrated a remarkable commitment to caring for the land; championing better practices; and gives their time to share knowledge with others so that they too can prosper.
Clover Hill Dairies sustainable practices and innovations are transferable to the wider farming community and to facilitate this we are sharing our learnings with internal and external stakeholders via field days, the media and a series of case studies and fact sheets on our website found HERE
2. Encouraging and furnishing opportunities for young people to enter food value chain career pathways.
Clover Hill Dairies works with a number of local and international universities in the UK and Canada, opening the farm for work experience, as a case study for honours and PhD theses and as a research facility. Clover Hill Dairies also provides a wide range of opportunities for school students including traineeships and work experience.
The Clover Hill Dairies team are active participants in the Cows Create Careers initiative providing their time and services as industry advocates and mentors. Through Cows Create Careers students, teachers and parents are more aware of the variety of careers that the dairy industry has to offer and more students are entering dairy education pathways and careers.
3. Building lifelong relationships between city consumers and rural providers.
To better create connections and between urban consumers and farmers, Lynne established the Art4Agriculture initiatives including the Archibull Prize, The Cream of the Crop Competition, Young Farming Champions, Young Eco Champions and the Confidence to Grow Initiative.
Art4Agriculture programs use art and multimedia to engage students in suburban primary and secondary schools in the challenges of housing, feeding and clothing an ever-expanding population with a declining natural resource base. They also train young farmers and natural resource managers to engage with urban audiences, enabling two-way conversations between consumers and those who grow their food and fibre.
Follow the Art4agriculture journey HERE
WHERE TO FROM HERE
At 30 years of age Nick is ready to take over the farm. He has many ideas and plans for the dairy with a new vision, team and a new name for the business.
Lynne and Michael, true to their ideals of supporting the next generation to take on leadership roles in the industry, will be leaving the business.
It’s an exciting time for all of us. We know Nick is looking forward to implementing his vision for the farm.
Michael plans to stay involved in the industry in a part-time capacity assisting Nick on the farm to build up an elite Holstein herd.
Lynne is very excited to be taking the next step in the progression of her industry programs.
Art4Agriculture, Young Farming Champions, Young Eco Champions and the Archibull Prize underscore her passion and being able to dedicate more time to growing these programs was a factor in her deciding to exit our milk business.
Lynne is driven by the need to improve the relationship between farmers and consumers. She is passionate about shifting the way farmers work with, and think about, the supply chain. She believes it is crucial for farmers and consumers to create a joint understanding of agricultural supply chains and their constraints and is confident this will restore value and trust in food and fibre production.
Lynne believes within Australia there is a huge opportunity to build communication and sustainability through the food value chain. This opportunity comes largely from understanding complexities of relationships between the value chain and in particular understanding the needs of our customers and consumers.
For farmers this will mean working beyond traditional boundaries, and challenging the conventional thinking of primary industries and individuals.
For consumers it will mean reflecting on their definitions of value when thinking about Australian grown products.
For the value chain as a whole it will require a paradigm shift in thinking and a collaborative re-allocation of resources and responsibilities amongst all stakeholders.
Achieving the requisite change in mindset that constitutes the first steps on the road to sustainable competitive advantage is the greatest challenge facing farming businesses in Australia today and to help facilitate this Lynne is starting a new initiative “Farming Ahead of the Curve”.
END OF AN ERA
We hope the Clover Hill Dairies journey will be a legacy that is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about us.
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