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Sowing the field for future generations

Andrew Lee on his family’s organic farm,‘Caroa’, Emerald. Photo by Red Earth Films
FARMING HAS come a long way in the last hundred years.

Technology has provided us with new ways to produce food but these have not always been kind to the earth.

Synod Green Church advocate, Rev Judith Dalton, is keen to get rid of the idea that rural communities are ‘anti-green’.

“Many farmers are deeply connected to their land and are developing more sustainable practices for soil and biodiversity
conservation,” she said.

“In general I think we [in the city] have lost our sense of connection to and dependence on the land.

“Nor do we appreciate the patient waiting and perseverance of people living on the land.”

Roger and Carolyn Lee, with their adult son Andrew, breed and fatten organic beef cattle on their 800 hectare property, ‘Caroa’, in Emerald.

“I think a lot of people may have considered the advantages of pesticide-free food but most people put it in the too hard
basket,” Roger Lee said of when they began farming organically.

“We’d come to the firm belief that the environment was being affected by pesticides.

“We were doing most things required for an organic certification already so we thought the sensible thing to do was to become fully certified.”

The three-year process gave the Lee’s organic certification in 2003.

The Emerald Uniting Church members said their faith played a part in their decision to become organic producers.

“I think people who adhere to a Christian faith naturally look for the better way; they are forward looking.

“The whole organic venture has been very successful commercially, environmentally and from an aesthetic point of

“It has in no way impacted on productivity, in fact in some ways it makes life simpler – we can’t use pesticides so we don’t have to worry about whether we should.

“Our animal health status is excellent.

We love it on the land and we enjoy what we are doing,” he said.

Clermont-Capella Uniting Church minister and Central Queensland Presbytery Mining Impact Task Group member, Rev Dr David Ferguson, said the relationship between farmers and the environment starts with Genesis 1.

“The name Adam in Hebrew is linguistically related with concepts of humanity and the soil and the Earth,” he said.

“In the narrative, humanity is seen as part of creation and dependent on creation, but was also given responsibility for and
authority over creation.”

He said as a minister in a rural area he meets a large number of horticulturalists and graziers.

“These people are concerned deeply at the intrusion of legislation into their agricultural practices,” he said.

The Lee’s are currently struggling with this very issue as mining companies drill their land with government approval.

“There surely is no other area of the economy where legislation can directly damage the efficiency of a business sector to critical acclaim while providing no compensation to the effected industry,” said Dr Ferguson.

Other examples include land clearing legislation, which Dr Ferguson said can damage erosion preventing grass coverage.

“Unfortunately the eroded soil passing into runoff puts damaging sediment on the Great Barrier Reef and the graziers are being required to submit plans to stop the flow of sediment from their properties (at their own expense).

“To consider these impacts individually is obviously a simplistic response to a complex issue where the locals hold valuable information.

“Our discussions regarding farming practice need to move beyond this us/them understanding where farmers are seen
as potential environmental vandals, and move to a model where partnerships are made to encourage best practises.”

Dr Ferguson said we, as consumers, needed to be accountable for our own choices and the consequent environmental impacts.

“It is one thing to expect best practice and another to be willing to pay for it".

Photo : Andrew Lee on his family’s organic farm,‘Caroa’, Emerald. Photo by Red Earth Films