The importance of community in a Big Sky country

Introducing Ross and Robyn Lane from the central wheatbelt of WA.

1.  Summary of family and farming enterprise.

Our family farming business consists of Ross and Robyn Lane and our three sons Colin, David and Matthew.  At the moment our oldest son Colin is working full time in our farming business and the other two boys are in Perth, one in an apprenticeship and the other at school.

The farming enterprise of 4800 Ha is located in the central wheatbelt of WA.  As the name suggests we grow predominately wheat as well as canola, barley, lupins and hay oats.  We also have a Suffolk Stud which we established as a way of breeding our own terminal sires to put over our merino ewe flock and of course to sell.

The central wheatbelt of WA

 2.  Lifestyle factors we enjoy as a farmer.

There are so many reasons we enjoy being farmers, I guess we wouldn’t do it if there wasn’t, but the main factors are (in no particular order):

The ability to be able to make your own decisions, from the creation of a five to ten year plan for the property to the order of work that needs to be done for the day.  The implementation and the outcome of those decisions is a responsibility and a challenge that can be very rewarding.

The area we live in.  The wide open spaces of what I like to think of as “big sky” country and the rolling hills.  From many places on the farm the view seems to go on forever.  For much of the year the colours of the country are various shades of red, gold, brown and the dark green of the trees.  Then for a few months in the late winter and spring (if it rains) the landscape changes to green with growing crops as far as the eye can see and then changes again when the crops flower, canola yellow and lupin white.  Along the sides of the roads and in the bush in the spring there are wildflowers everywhere.  The wheat belt  has a wide range of flora and fauna species with many flora species unique to the area.  We are registered with Land for Wildlife and have fenced off some large areas of bushland over the past ten years, the growth in the number of native plants in the fenced area is great and we also see signs of more native animals also, including my favourite, the echidna.

Community is an important factor.  From the sense that there is a large group of people all in the same boat with you together, to being in a sporting club, to having the children go to a small primary school where they are nurtured and taught in a way they never could be in a large school, to knowing you can play a part and contribute to what happens around you.

a boy's best friend

 3.  Challenges short and long term.

The challenges that we face every day of every season are things such as:

Number One in the wheat belt – Rainfall!  When it rains and how much is the defining factor in our production systems, every agronomic factor can be optimum for growing grain but if it doesn’t rain it doesn’t grow.  This actually translates into a long term challenge as well, as farmers across Australia have seen over the past decade or so.

 Commodity price fluctuations can also be both short and long term challenges and even though we can control the effect these have on our farming business to some extent through our marketing strategies, no one can predict the future.

Land degradation and salinity are ongoing short and long term challenges but this is something we can work on within our business and we have been planting trees and saltbush and have surveyed and contoured the property to harvest water over the past sixteen years and will continue to do so into the future.

Government decision can definitely present both short and long term challenges.  The decision by our state government to all GM Canola to be grown in one that has both short and long term consequences.  The Federal Government’s Carbon Tax is another.

The problem of chemical resistance is another looming challenge, in our grain industry in particular, and alternative strategies for weed control/management will have to be developed in coming years.

The strategies to deal with these challenges all need to have one outcome in mind and that is to develop sustainable  farming systems that produce the food required by the population while still maintaining the health and fertility of the land for coming generations.

4.  Understanding farming and Billboard

A recent newspaper article concerning a study done by the Primary Industries Education Foundation in schools that revealed how little students knew about where their food and fibre came from, came as bit of a shock.  How did this huge gap in general knowledge come about?  Especially with respect to food – literally a matter of life and death!  There seems to be an increasing number of cooking and food show on tv and in books, articles in newspapers on the same subject but is it translating into a greater understanding by consumers of where food actually comes from and the steps it takes to end up as an ingredient in a recipe.  Looking forward to Australian Year of the Farmer helping to close the gap, particularly initiatives like 52 blogs by 52 farmers.  Great idea!

Our Billboard may say something like:

FOOD – Do you REALLY know where it comes from!?

This blog is number 14 in our quest to feature 52 farming blogs in 52 weeks as part of our celebration of the Australian Year of the Farmer.

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