Survey helps build resilience for farmers in Central West NSW

Aerial view of a green farm paddock

Check your mailbox! That’s the message to more than 2000 landholders across Central West NSW who’ve been specially selected to take part in a survey about land and farm management practices.

Led by Southern Cross University, the Soil CRC Australian Farmer Survey project aims to understand what land and farm management practices farmers undertake, and why they choose the farming methods they do.

The project also aims to provide sound information on the challenges facing farmers and their aspirations for the future.

“We wish to determine what information and technical support farmers are seeking to help them build resilience,” said project leader, Dr Hanabeth Luke of Southern Cross University.

“We have so far surveyed North Central Victoria, the Eyre Peninsula of SA, the WA Wheatbelt and now Central West NSW.

“Each time, regional survey priorities are co-developed with local partners.”

The survey has been funded through the Soil CRC (Cooperative Research Centre) and will be repeated in five years’ time to measure any changes.

“We’re gathering a national data set to gain an understanding of what’s happening for Australian farmers and for soils across our farming systems,” said Dr Luke.

Reports from previous surveys can be viewed on the Soil CRC website.

“To be able to better support farmers and farming systems to become more resilient, we need to understand the important challenges faced by farmers; their goals and what support they need to reach those goals,” Dr Luke said.

“We also need to understand the decision-making behind why they operate as they do: are they adopting best practice and new innovative approaches? If not, we need to understand what the barriers to this may be. For example, are barriers economic or a knowledge issue? Or to what extent do they relate to things like values and trust in local organisations?

“All of these things come together to help us to understand the complexities driving these systems so the partner organisations and scientists from the Soil CRC can best target their efforts.”

No individual landholder is identified in the reporting.

A group of six people standing outside the office of Central West Farming Services

Dr Hanabeth Luke (3rd from left) leading a survey pre-test with Central West Farming Systems representatives (from left) Graham McDonald, Diana Fear, Ruth Klinger, Lawrence Higgins and Guy Webb.

The project is a collaboration with local farming group Central West Farming Systems, and Local Land Services Central West. The local shire councils of Parkes, Lachlan, Cowra, Bland, Blayney, Cabonne and Forbes are also project partners.

Diana Fear, CEO of the Central West Farming Systems Group, said: “CWFS is excited to work with Soil CRC and Dr Hanabeth Luke from Southern Cross University to deliver a project to better understand and support farmers in the Central West.

“This survey will help direct our activities, including research, development and extension, that will benefit the whole community.”

Neroli Brennan, Team Leader for Agricultural Services of Local Land Services Central West also endorsed the survey.

“This is a great opportunity for farmers to help identify and target soil health issues impacting our region. Their personal perspective will strongly influence the approaches we adopt locally to manage our soil resources.”

Completing the survey

The advance notice being mailed to landholders features a QR code that links to an online survey. Otherwise farmers can choose to opt-out.

The surveys can also be completed on paper. Those interested will be sent a survey pack that contains a postage paid return envelope for easy returns.

The comprehensive survey will take 25 to 45 minutes to complete.

“The end goal of the project is to ascertain how to best engage and support farmers moving into the future. We need to be developing resilience now more than ever across our farming systems,” said Dr Luke.

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