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Hill Top Farm workshops

At two recent Cooktown workshops, Cape Yorkers learned ways to do just this.

The workshops - ‘How to grow more with less’ and ‘Create your pest-resistant garden or farm’, were run by Cooktown’s Dr Wendy Seabrook, and supported by Cape York NRM through funding from Cook Shire Council’s Economic Development Programme. She provides training, videos and other resources in ecological farming and gardening.

“Participants came away from the workshops with practical ideas to trial on their own properties” she said.

Wendy finds herself travelling around the world more frequently, being asked to share these techniques with food growers who are experiencing different problems and challenges.

“Organic techniques are great for growing chemical-free food. But growing gets heaps easier using these ecological techniques” Wendy said. “We bring Nature’s FREE ecological services back into our gardens and farms again.”

Workshop participants heard how innovative farmers and gardeners are benefitting from using this ecological approach - farmers like Colin Seis, who uses 70% less fertiliser on his pasture cropping enterprise than his neighbours do in the NSW Central Highlands; while Gabe Brown and family who farm 5,000 acres in North Dakota, USA, get higher levels of nutrients in their soil than their neighbours, and achieve this result without applying fertilisers.

Cost savings are not just from fertilisers. For example, thirty years ago Carl Rosato and Helen Atthowe were regularly applying organic pesticides - now they very rarely use them in their Californian orchard. They are creating food and shelter for the predators and parasites of their insect pests, just as Wendy is doing on her farm.

Stefan Sobkowiak from Miracle Farms in Canada reduced his pest problems by replacing his apple orchard with a diversity of tree crops - over 100 varieties of apples, plums, pears, and cherries. What’s clever is how he’s done it - there are different trees in each row, but they all fruit within a 10-day window - making harvesting efficient.

At the workshop, participants spent part of the afternoon developing ideas for their own properties.

“Ideas included growing living mulch as nitrogen-fixing and soil-decompacting ground covers in bananas and orchards; using flowering plants between vegetable rows to attract beneficial insects; and even open-canopied ‘fertiliser trees’, like African farmers are using, instead of buying expensive fertilisers” Wendy said.

Feedback from workshop participants was positive. Bernie Alberes said it was great to look at things from a different perspective, while Manon Denninger said it was amazing how much easier growing can be when we work with nature.

Do you want to learn more about ecological growing? Check out the videos and other resources at Wendy is also happy to come and do workshops in other Cape York Peninsula communities.

For information, contact Wendy Seabrook 40695058

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