Sarah_Fea by stariya


									Sarah Fea

RIRDC Rural Women’s Award 2005 Northern Territory runner-up
       When the student is ready to learn, the teacher will appear.

       Most farmers are intimately familiar with their farm machinery, to the point of being able to
       repair and adjust these machines for peak performance. Sadly, few farmers have even
       half this level of understanding about the mechanics, attunement and operation of their
       soils. Their machines are complicated, but not as complex as our natural systems. If a
       machine has a critical part missing, it won’t function. However, natural systems are self-
       organising and adaptive and can regenerate as well as continue to function (although in
       altered form) when some components are missing.
                                                                              ——Dr Arden Anderson

       Healthy soils are the key. MANAGE FROM THE GROUND UP!
                                                              ——My ‘tag line’ on my business cards

Since 2005 our lives have been very exciting in many ways. In my Rural Women’s
Award application I noted that, although working for the Northern Territory Agriculture
Department was rewarding, the culture of the organisation was not receptive to the idea
of biological farming being extended to industry, even though some industry members
were already embracing the principles and needed greater guidance. I was making
progress in increasing their awareness, but in the interest of my clients and my own
personal situation (with two young children) I felt it was best to start my own consultancy
business. Thus was Bare Essential Agricultural Resource Management—Biologically, or
BEAR Biologics, born.

My journey has involved learning more and more about our soils and production systems
and about the people I have had the pleasure of working with. Having been exposed to
the principles of holistic management whilst on a cattle station in the Kimberley in 2002, I
was eager to do the course. I finally managed to do so with Clair O’Brien and her family
on their property Coodardie, at Mataranka, south of Katherine. With the practical
elements of the course being observable right there working on their property, my
lessons were far more profound. We began our ‘Kan Do’ project during this time, and the
learning journey since then has been immense.

The aim of Kan Do is to show the principles of holistic management by an easily
replicated demonstration site model that can be of varying sizes, depending on the stock
and the management team’s situation. Biological diversity is observed, measured and
recorded both above the soil (visual assessment, photo library and journalling) and
below (soil food web analysis). This way we can quantify what effect the management
system is having on the soil, pastures and herd health. In 2007 the Kan Do team began
working with the Lachlan catchment in New South Wales and, encouragingly, thanks to
lots of negotiating and networking, plus some federal funding, 10 sites have been born.
Our goal is for the project to extend nationally.

The core of the holistic training for me was the Decision Making Process Module, and I
was keen to give other women in business an opportunity to be exposed to a life-
changing experience—for that is what it is. With the aid of a Federal Women in
Agriculture grant, the Northern Territory Agricultural Association, and holistic
management educator Helen Lewis of Inside Outside Management, I was able to
facilitate the running a several decision-making workshops for women in agriculture and
supporting industries in the Northern Territory.

I have also been familiarising myself with the subject of carbon emissions and carbon
credits because I want to help people involved in agriculture receive economic rewards
for good management of soil health. In 2007 I attended Dr Christine Jones’ workshop in
Western Australia at which the first ‘dollars for soil carbon stored’ project was launched,
and I hope to add that aspect to all our Kan Do sites.

I am now about to embark on another journey of self-discovery: we have chosen to sell
up, leave the Northern Territory and travel throughout Australia while I home-school the
children. We will be looking for a new place to live, whilst enjoying the many learning
experiences our great country can provide.

   * Gaining full certification as a Soil Food Web Advisor, 2005

   Participant, National Young Farmers Forum, 2007, Pathways to Rural Leadership
    course, 2007, and National Young Farmers Forum, 2006


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