Three Gullies Farm, Mount Fairy : Farms With A Future

Case study:  Three Gullies, Mount Fairy

Farm Overview
Leisa Porter and James Innes purchased Three Gullies Farm in Mount Fairy at the end of 2016, with a bushfire affecting part of their property in January 2017. The property is 42.85 hectares facing predominantly northwest with three distinct gullies (hence the name) sloping down to a creek on the western boundary. It is located in the cool climate of the Southern Tablelands at 700-800m above sea level with temperature extremes of -10 to 40 degrees celcius.

The soil varies across the block with exposed shale rock subsoil on ridges and black alluvial soil on plateaus and flats.  Rock types include dolomite, with deposits of limestone, quartz, shale and other sedimentary formations.
The owners’ intent is to develop the property to run a mixed farming business with market garden and livestock production, achieved by applying sustainable and chemical free land and animal management practices.

Background of the farm
Three Gullies is mostly cleared with only a few isolated remnant trees across the landscape. The block was subdivided from a larger land holding where it was used as a fattening paddock, as such the soil was regularly ploughed and seeded with fodder crops although this has not occurred for a few years and the dominant grasses returning are wild oats and barley grass.  The biodiversity composition of the block presents as low.

The creek has been fenced and planted by Greening Australia sometime in 2014. This improvement included constructing a dam in the middle gully, however animals tracking down the slopes to water have caused early erosion channels in places.

Changes that have been made
Since taking over the property, the owners have been experimenting with bags of soil and staking straw bales on the worst erosion spots to stabilise the exposed areas.

They have put in a bore, pump and header tank for stock watering and have started tree planting in strategic areas with a grant from Local Land Services that will also provide for fencing of tree corridors.

Plans for the Future
The starting point on this new farm is to develop a baseline (series of indexes) of the key environmental features of the land characterising the landform, pasture types, soil and sub-soil composition, as well as the geomorphologic and hydrological profile.

Slowing and holding water across the block is high on the priority list. “We envisage that using a Yeoman's plough on contour across the block would aid water retention redirect it from the existing plough lines that run downhill” say James and Leisa.  As there is a lot of slope and undulation across the block, they seek expert advice on the best places to do this and where it is best to avoid.

James and Leisa are keen to learn how to make use of cattle laneways to improve their property.  They would like advice on design options for laneway and cell paddock design prior to beginning earthworks for sustainable water management. They are interested in the technique used at Geoff Lawton’s, Zaytuna in northern NSW.  Geoff calls it the Zaytuna Grazing Method (ZGM). It is a hybridization of several systems including those of Joel Salatin, Allan Savory and Regen Ag.  (Advanced Cell Grazing)

Their view is that they need to design the use of the land to complement and not control native wildlife. For example, they see the wombats as an interesting design challenge.  “As we want to develop the property to support native fauna, we want to find out as much as we can on keeping fences wombat friendly“ says James. They would like to support chains of wildlife corridors in the gullies. The goal being to link with remanent areas to assist biodiversity connectivity.  

The most southern gully has a flat basin that is fed by a permanent spring.  The aim is to return this to a native wetland habitat.  Planting the three gullies and road frontage will create shade, shelter and increase habitat for wildlife in addition to providing five paddocks for stock rotation.

Focus of the Ground Work Day

The ground work day at Three Gullies Farm, Mount Fairy will focus on baseline measurements and property planning:

  • Property history and future plans
  • Transect lines for soil testing
  • Pasture assessment using Quadrats
  • Baseline records using photographs
  • Services planning

Join In  the Ground Work Day

Acknowledgements: SCPA-South East Producers, LLS, Three Gullies Farm, Mount Fairy