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Connecting the Farmer and Farm Services Dots

Cape York NRM and Terrain NRM are working together to help farmers learn from each other and bring greater coordination to personal farming support services, also known as extension services.

Known as the Enhanced Extension Coordination project, the three - year initiative will work to enhance extension services to better meet producer needs, improving the quality of extension services, bring farmers together in facilitated peer to peer learning networks, support whole of farm outcomes and make greater use of smarter and more innovative extension approaches to help achieve Great Barrier Reef water quality targets.

The project is designed to improve coordination, collaboration and communication between extension networks and farmers within the Wet Tropics and Cape York catchment areas to increase efficiency, reduce duplication and improve environmental outcomes.

Administered by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF), the Enhanced Extension Coordination project aims to facilitate improved coordination of extension activities in GBR catchments in each of the six reef Natural Resource Management regions (Cape York, Wet Tropics, Burdekin, Mackay-Whitsunday, Fitzroy and Burnett-Mary).

Terrain NRM and Cape York NRM have joined forces to deliver the project across Cape York and the Wet Tropics as the various farm types cross NRM-region boundaries.

Terrain NRM Regional Extension Coordinator Michael Nash covers the cane and banana industry while Cape York NRM Regional Extension Coordinator Oliver McConnachie focuses on graziers and farmers engaging in mixed cropping.

The Regional Extension Officers are tasked with:

  • Establishing Regional Extension Coordination Networks
  • Establishing Peer to Peer groups
  • Allocating Flexible Funding and supporting the implementation of Flexible Funding projects

Cape York NRM Regional Extension Coordinator Oliver McConnachie said his role was all about bringing people together to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of Extension services, and creating opportunities for farmers to learn from each other.

‘I have established a Regional Extension Network which brings together regional Extension Officers, and host organisations such as Cape York NRM, South Cape York Catchments, Cape York Weeds and Ferals Inc., Barron Catchment Care, Terrain, private consultants, lifestyle and business couches and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. These gatherings provide an opportunity for the Extension Officers to learn from each other, access professional development, and keep in touch in order to develop a more coordinated approach to service delivery,’ Oliver explained.

‘I am also in the process of establishing place-based Peer to Peer networks to enable farmers to share knowledge, learn from each other, and propose initiatives which would increase knowledge, such as workshops or professional development, or practical, on- the-ground-activities.

‘We have a pool of funding called Flexible Funds to support Peer to Peer group members’ ideas and initiatives. A recent Flexible Funding project saw a number of Lakeland farmers from the Cape York Precision Agricultural Network attend a pig trapping workshop. The farmers requested practical training in pig trapping and the workshop was a great success in terms of reach, and reducing the number of feral pigs destroying crops.’

Oliver said the Regional Extension Network has a broad membership base, as do the Peer to Peer groups.

‘While we call it the Extension Network, membership is open to anyone who works directly with farmers to improve environmental outcomes,’ he explained.

‘The job title doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you work with farmers somewhere in the Wet Tropics or Cape York region. We’d love you to join the Regional Extension Network so please get in touch if you would like to find out more.

‘Similarly, Peer to Peer networks are open to those who work the land every day, sometimes, or are the partner or employee of someone who does. The idea is to bring people together to socialise, learn from one another and other experts, and provide mutual support in what are challenging economic and environmental times.’

Oliver can be contacted on oliver.mcconnachie@capeyorknrm.com.au.

This project has been funded by the Queensland Government Reef Water Quality Program

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