Symphony Farm, Tilba Tilba : Farms With A Future


Symphony Farm Case Study, Tilba Tilba

Farm Overview

Symphony Farm is owned and operated by Graham and Amanda Thompson and their children. The Thompson family has been managing the property since 1995 but officially took over in 2000.

Located just 2km South of Tilba within the Eurobodalla Shire, the 300 acres is an undulating block which covers just about every aspect – some slopes face North, some South and some East. The property is 90m above sea level at its highest point.

Typical for a temperate coastal location, the rainfall is relatively high at 980mm across the year and the predominant pasture has been Kikuyu.

The soils are deep and predominantly basalt, but the Thompsons are looking to further improve the organic matter content in the soils and to diversify plant species through increased aeration and fertility, with a focus on using animals to achieve these outcomes.

Their vision is to provide for their family by “living as close as we can to eating the best food for health, family and community” says Amanda. “The farms has to be financially viable in order to be sustainable” she continues. They believe this can be achieved using the principles of a closed system, so they are looking to reduce and remove external inputs.

 

Background

At Symphony Farm our management practices and farm design strategies are aimed at enhancing the biological activity in our soil, which determines not only the health and vitality of the animals and the landscape but the health and vitality of people" say the Thompsons.

The property was originally owned by Amanda’s father who was very specific about leaving it idle for 20-30 years, so much so that when the couple took over it was covered in blackberry bushes and weeds. Prior to that it had been used for dairy and was heavily cropped to grow pasture for the herd.

The primary income on the property comes from the production of essential oils under the brand of Reedy Creek Oils, which has been certified organic since the 1990’s, although the family is truly a mixed farming enterprise with the integration of beef, chicken and pigs into the grazing mix.

 

 

Changes that have already been made

After mechanically and manually clearing the blackberries, much of the property has been returned to pasture and is being managed by livestock grazing practices.

We use a combination of design and management practices inspired by various pioneers such as Andre Voisin, Allan Savory, Newman Turner, PA Yeoman and Joel Salatin,” continue the Thompsons. “Several years ago we implemented a system of “Rational Grazing” for livestock. This essentially involves the timed grazing of livestock through pastures divided with a combination of permanent and temporary fencing. This system maximizes nutrient cycling to enhance soil fertility, biodiversity, animal and human health” says Graham.

To date the Thompsons have installed a major water trunk line to the site that reticulates water from a spring fed storage tank placed high enough to reticulate water to all areas of the property as fencing for the rational grazing system is progressively installed.

Plans for the future

The Thompsons would like to see a future on the farm that is more balanced between essential oil production and livestock, with the aim to access direct sales for meat.

Currently we’re redesigning our fencing and watering systems to incorporate PA Yeoman’s principle of “Key Line” design. His landscape-enhancing techniques revolve around the concept of designing farm landscapes and infrastructure so as to reflect land shapes created by water movement. Yeoman advocates that fencing structures are best placed along land contours created by both natural water movement and artificial water lines.”

The Thompsons have commenced electric fencing in corridors along the natural land contours of the property facing north-east. They are looking to perform multi-tiered grazing using cattle, pigs and chickens following the contours of the landscape. To complete the system they are looking to extend the fenced corridors along the contours to the South and South-west of the land area.

The Thompsons believe that this fencing design encourages a more even distribution of nutrients across the landscape (recycled nutrients through livestock/manure and urine) and are looking to expand the fencing of paddocks on contour.

They are looking to install water access points along these corridors for “Rationally Grazed” livestock, however, in addition to this they would like to create passive water harvesting using swales so that run-off water is held for longer periods, higher in the landscape. The intent being that when rainfall has exceeded the field capacity of the soil, instead of running off and away from the landscape it is held high, achieving many biological benefits for the landscape.


Acknowledgements: SCPA-South East Producers, LLS, Symphony Farm

Bookings Essential

When: Monday 23 May

Where: Symphony Farm, Tilba Tilba

Cost: $20, Lunch included

What’s On: Ground Work Day – topics will include:

  • Biodiversity enhancement
  • Rational Animal Grazing including using a diversity of animals
  • Grazing on contour
  • Setting out contours for grazing and fencing