Making management easier for small landholders

The Landcare tent is a hive of activity at the Balingup event

It’s a pity that small rural properties don’t come with a user manual. Instead, new owners who want to maintain the serenity and re-sale value of their property need to choose a management approach themselves, often without enough time to make well-informed decisions.

What some small landholders don’t realise is that there are community groups that can help. And several of these groups will be on hand in the Landcare tent at the upcoming Balingup Small Farm Field Day.

Located at the east end of the showgrounds on “Duck Walk”, the Landcare tent will feature several community groups with knowledge on a range of land management issues and responses.

This year the tent will feature the new “Virtual Hub” project, which aims to assist small landholders with properties up to 40ha in area. Project Manager Adrian Williams said events covering a range of topics, such as livestock management and water supply, are being planned for landholders in the Shire of Bridgetown-Greenbushes.

“The project will assist small landholders to understand the ‘nitty gritty’ of owning and managing a property and how to make it work well,” Mr Williams said.

Getting your property in working order has been a focus of South West Catchments Council’s (SWCC) Sustainable Agriculture team, who will be promoting their work on soil health. Regional Landcare Facilitator Peter Clifton said SWCC will have soils on display to demonstrate a basic soil health assessment and generate discussions about soil limitations.

“We’ll be demonstrating some quick and simple tests that landholders can do themselves and discussing some options to improve soil health. There will be plenty of handouts and ideas for growers to go away with,” Mr Clifton said.

Soil recommendations depend a lot on what you intend to grow. A lot of small landholders are interested in growing trees, but don’t know where to start. If that sounds like you, make sure you have a chat with the South West Agroforestry Network, who will also be in the tent talking about their Peer Group Mentoring Programme.

But if you just want to revegetate an area to promote biodiversity, speak to Cheryl Hamence from Bridgetown-Greenbushes Community Landcare who has years of experience in revegetation with native species. And if it’s an unsightly dam or wetland that needs revegetating, Blackwood Basin Group has runs on the board, having recently converted Schwenke’s Dam in Greenbushes into a ready-made habitat for waterbirds.

But before you plant anything, you need to deal with any weeds or pests to give your plants a chance to compete. One of the biggest issues with owning a rural property is the obligation to manage declared weeds and pests. The Blackwood Biosecurity Group has recently formed to help landholders develop a coordinated approach to weeds and pests, and will be on hand to discuss pest action plans. Likewise, Warren Catchments Council will be present to consult with the community about setting up a group in the Shire of Manjimup.

So while you may not have a user manual for your block yet, you can certainly start to put one together with a visit to the Landcare Tent on Saturday, April 22 at the Balingup Small Farm Field Day.

This project is supported by the South West Catchments Council’s Regional Landcare Facilitator Programme, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme.

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