‘Off the Contour’ #5 – An Inaugural RegenAG Year to Remember

‘Off the Contour’ #5 – An Inaugural RegenAG Year to Remember


We have come to the end of what has been a tremendously successful year with the inaugural RegenAG Workshop Series coming to a close in Mudgee recently. It is with great pride and gratitude that I write this knowing of all the great information and knowledge that all of us have both shared and gained this year and best of all the solid friendships that been made as a result of our putting this whole thing together. It has been estimated that some 5000 of the total 143 000 odd farmers in Australia practice some Regenerative Agriculture on their holdings.

The 2010 RegenAG Workshop Series has had over 850 people come to the various courses and another 1300 or so come to the evening and afternoon seminars, and from what we can see, many of these folks are new to RegenAG. And so with that we have perhaps added to the ‘lunatic’ chorus of people who, with their families, communities and landscapes are working towards a more regenerative future.

For Lisa and I the biggest buzz we have got has been the reinforcement of the pathway we laid (way!) back in 1993 when we set our path in our Permaculture business to get to work on agricultural landscapes. This year’s RegenAG series has not only shown that we are on the right trail but that we have an ever increasing legion of great friends and colleagues who are also motoring along this journey as well.

Now the RegenAG team are taking a huge deep breath after what has also been for us a very busy year of organising and convening with lots of behind the scenes actions that I feel needs acknowledgment.

First of all to Free Range Permaculture’s Georgie & Kym for their huge efforts this year in putting together all of the Farm Ready applications and for all the phone calls and liaisons to media, politicians and various organisations cajoling them to get on the RegenAG train. That they did this whilst nursing a couple of young children (Jack & Dylan) and were still able to co-convene the 10th Australian Permaculture Convergence, co-launch the ground breaking Trust Nature FNQ Mareeba Composting Initiative and manage a successful 15 day Permaculture Design Course in all of this is a remarkable effort. Their attendance numbers were the lowest of any of the RegenAG courses, but their evening talk with Joel in Brisbane at the Northey St City Farm was attended by over 500 and set the RegenAG record of attendance. Certainly the course numbers made their 2010 RegenAG journey a somewhat challenging one, they and all of us have learnt a lot about our respective markets and reinforces the view we have of local adaptability in all that we do. Thanks also to Kathy and John Collis of Weatherby Station where the 2010 RegenAG FNQ courses were held and also to the team at the Northern Gulf Resource Management Group for their sponsorship and broad support of this years series.

Secondly to the team at Milkwood Permaculture, especially Kirsten & Nick for being beacons of professionalism and for raising the bar as far as event management is concerned. When you walk into a room that these guys have set up it really looks prepared and farm-chic schmick along with having all of the backroom stuff taken care of as well! As parents (of young Ashar) they too are also juggling this all with a set of seemingly serial workshops, courses, internships, blogging/videos/tweets/facebook/buzz etc (!!). All whilst renovating their family farm and building their beautiful new home which makes Milkwood’s efforts over 2010 all the more remarkable. Kirsten & Nick have also done a great deal of work in working Google’s magic by getting RegenAG out there in the Google Ad sphere which is a special skill in itself. Thanks also goes to Julia for assisting Kirsten & Nick behind the scenes, taking calls and arranging bookings. Also to June & Karl Ritar for opening up their farm ‘Kirwin’ (and shearing shed!) to RegenAG’s efforts plus Sue & Jim Bradley for all of their support during every course Milkwood puts on. Milkwood’s brigade of Interns also need acknowledgment for their various contributions in making things go smoothly. Milkwood’s RegenAG efforts this year were also sponsored by Ylad Living Soils which is very much appreciated.

Then there is Fusion Farm’s Ben Falloon, who has also done a most remarkable job in putting together the fabulous RegenAG website but has also with his father Stan and mum Robin transformed their family farm ‘Taranaki’ into a working RegenAG ‘laboratory’ with all of the RegenAG ‘bits’ in place and a whole lot more. Again Ben has done an enormous amount of behind the scene’s wizardry, whether it be managing through the complexities of the website, taking the mastery of Google Ad’s to a new level or using his graphic’s skills to design ads and posters that have made the whole RegenAG effort so much more successful than it otherwise would have been. See what happens when you put a marketing degree and a farmer together! Ben has done this all with the support of his partner Nina and their beautiful darling daughter Maya who is more often than not either on her dad’s knee or his hip as he goes about working Taranaki or RegenAG. Also thanks go to Robin Falloon for her work in supporting Ben & Nina, managing the book sales and registrations, and for her beautiful smile which raises every spirit. Stan Falloon deserves special mention for his work, along with Ben, in building into Taranaki the various Keyline systems plus the beautiful shed extension that has become a great multi-use venue. Stan’s kind words of support to each course are also worthy of mention as they serve to encourage all of us to pursue this work and to do so smiling. Finally thanks also go to our new RegenAG UK conveners in the great wife and husband team of Eliza Pearson & Ned RocknRoll who provided us all with a lot of support and work in making the our Keyline and Joel’s workshops at Taranaki so successful and smooth running.

Over the ‘ditch’ in Aotearoa/New Zealand RegenAG also kicked off, albeit after a bit of a brittle start. Thanks must go to Lisa Talbot for kicking things off over there and for supporting the convenership transition to the Soil & Health Association’s Marion Thomson and Mangarara Station’s visionary graziers Rachel & Greg Hart and their children George, Bill & Emma. Nearly 400 people attended the ‘Local Farms & Community’ seminars and course under their organisation and this was a remarkable feat given their coming relatively late to the convenership (plus no FarmReady scheme!) and is a tribute to their strength of organisation and networking. We look forward to building on this success into 2011 and beyond.

Our great friend Costa Georgiadis also has been a fantastic champion of RegenAG over 2010 whether it be his active participation in the various workshops but also in working with us as an M.C. at our Mudgee and Brisbane seminars. Bravo Costa!! Also thanks go out to Kylie Kwong for her M.C. efforts in Sydney along with her local food advocacy work; Rob and Emma at Food Connect for their support along with other organisations like Slow Food Canberra, Sydney Food Fairness Alliance, Watershed Landcare, The Food Fossickers, Bendigo Sustainability Group, Bendigo Wholefoods and the City of Greater Bendigo.

We would also like to acknowledge the early support of the team at the Mulloon Insitute in helping us with some of our initial planning and for generously hosting our strategy session earlier in the year which laid the path for the successes of the RegenAG series.

Thanks must also go to the Australian Federal Government Department of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries for their fantastic ‘FarmReady’ scheme of which so many of you have been beneficiaries of. Without this kind of support many primary producers wouldn’t have been able to participate in the RegenAG courses and we thank the FarmReady team for their help this year and hope that this world-leading initiative gains even greater budget support in the years to come, such that it can run year round and increase its capacity to extend that support through a whole year. That the scheme was fully subscribed by November this year, only some 5 months into the financial year suggests that the scheme either needs to qualify a set of courses for a financial year or needs more funding such that it can run a full year. We are disappointed that organisations such as RegenAG won’t be able to conduct FarmReady supported courses in the 1st half of 2010 as we were looking forward to preparing producers for following year with a whole range of more in-depth follow-up courses following those of this year. Doing so would involve a creative dialogue with organisations such as RegenAG and we invite RegenAG course participants to provide their feedback to the team at FarmReady (along with Minister Ludwig and their local members) around how they can make this scheme all the more effective.

On a personal note and on behalf of all of the RegenAG community would also like to thank my beautiful darling wife Lisa Heenan for all of the support she has given all of us this year and in those past whether its shadow-writing my emails or creating a Facebook buzz or having a kind supportive word or three to all of us when things aren’t going so well and most of all for her extreme endurance in what has been a long, long road since we started out on all of this nearly 20 years ago as a couple of dreamy kids in love with each other and our planet and its farming landscapes. Our family’s Holistic Goal is ‘…To maintain creative, intergenerational family & community lives built around regenerative & profitable production, management & educational systems…’ and RegenAG is the manifestation of this and we are so very grateful to have the friendship and support of the other RegenAG conveners on this path.

Of course the series was a great success ultimately not just because of the organisers but also because of the quality people who lead each of the workshops.

Really big thanks go to Kirk and Tamara Gadzia for their opening salvo in the RegenAG series that, as intended, really set the scene and it was great to have someone with Kirk’s great experience and wisdom lead us out with the added bonus of Tamara sharing her knowledge around riparian restoration. Kirk and Tamara are a special couple who touched us all personally with warmth and good advice.

Thanks also go out to Paul Taylor who has been a great support to both us and soil organisms across the planet for some time now and should be recognised for this. It was Paul who came up with the great slogan that RegenAG appropriated over 2010 of ‘…go to the shed, not the shop…’ and in so many ways this sums up the RegenAG effort.

My great friend and colleague Eugenio Gras who travelled all the way from Mexico also deserves great thanks, not just for participating but also for his introducing us to the whole ethic and practice of understanding how to bring together ‘campesino technology’ and western agriculture. This has brought many to the point where they now have the immediate tools to get off of the fertility drugs of the ‘pharming’ industry, thereby reducing their exposure now and into the future. For this we are very grateful to Eugenio, his partner Steffi and the whole team at COAS in Latin America.

Also big thanks goes to the whole Salatin family and the team at Polyface Farms for providing us with the privilege of hosting Joel over the last month. Right back in October 2008 Joel and I started our conversation that led us to doing the ‘Carbon Farming’ & ‘Carbon Economy’ workshops in the US in 2009 and this year’s RegenAG series here in Australia and Aotearoa/New Zealand. Joel’s 1st reactions to my requests were ‘….This is a big assignment, teacher…’ and thanked me for ‘…for being innovative and pushing old buzzards like me into new thermals…’ Well I think it is clear that it is we who have been taught how to be more innovative and learnt the practical, often comedic means by which to profitably capture the thermals as a result of Joel’s renaissance agriculture.

So what for 2011. Well after a small hiatus, albeit interspersed with the festive season, the directors of RegenAG Ltd. will be gathering in Bendigo around the 4th of January 2011 for a planning and strategy meeting which will deal with the some of the following:

  • 2011/12 RegenAG series design
  • FarmReady liaisons and feedback
  • RegenAG UK launch
  • RegenAG expansion into South Australia, Western Australia, SE QLD and Tasmania and other markets
  • RegenAG participant support and liaisons with other orgs.
  • RegenAG convenership contracts & modelling
  • RegenAG venue standards

We are formalising our agenda over the coming weeks and invite feedback and submissions from all 2010 RegenAG participants and interested parties in helping us make our organisation support all of us working towards more Regenerative Agricultural systems do so better and more effectively whilst maintaining our integrity and quality. As part of this I have trademarked RegenAG® for our non-profit RegenAG Ltd. to protect and further develop this now quite valuable and respected brand. We want to specifically hear your ideas about:

  • Possible convening relationships
  • Ideas for courses, workshops & seminars
  • Ways we can serve you better

In the meantime we are already in talks with people like Paul StametsBill ZeedykBrock DolmanAbe Collins & Colin Seis and are keen to get folks like Will AllenWes Jacksonand other leading lights to be involved with RegenAG in the coming years.

Finally I would like to acknowledge and give deep thanks to all of you who have supported RegenAG with your involvement and participation this year. We couldn’t have achieved what we have without you and want to commit to you that we will continue to maintain the integrity of our charter in delivering quality outcomes for our families, communities and landscapes.

All the very best and we hope you have an enjoyable festive season and a buoyant and regenerative new year wherever you may be.

Yours and Growing,

Darren J. Doherty
RegenAG Originator & Director

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