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Producer Networks Thriving in Far North

People learn better from their peers.

That’s the theory behind a number of facilitated producer peer to peer groups across the Atherton Tablelands and Cape York.

Cape York NRM’s Enhanced Extension Coordination (EEC) Oliver McConnachie is behind the groundswell of groups which include the Johnstone Progressive Grazing Network, Tablelands Next Generation Progressive Grazing Network, Tablelands Sustainable Dairy and Beef Productivity Network, the Cape York Precision Agriculture Network, and the Endeavour River Progressive Grazing Network.

Oliver said facilitated peer to peer learning is a long-term strategy to drive positive environmental change.

‘The aim of establishing peer to peer groups is to create a safe space for land managers to share information, raise current issues, learn from each other and get to know one another better,’ he explained.

'They provide the opportunity for people to learn new ways of working from people they respect – each other.’

Experts and industry specialists may be invited in to share knowledge with the group and there is also a pool of funding available to peer to peer group members to propose project ideas such as on-farm trials, training workshops, accessing specialist information, farm visits and educational tours.

‘Our goal for members is to see them build capacity, move towards improved management of their farms, improve cooperation, coordination and collaboration among producers and their larger networks, and increase innovative learning approaches and the use of technologies to support on-farm learning,’ Oliver said.

‘This project has been highly successful with several groups up and running and a number of farmer – driven projects completed or in the pipeline. Peer to peer group projects have included pig trapping workshops using the latest in humane technology, and healthy soils workshops. We have also recently installed weather stations on a number of Lakeland Downs properties to provide farmers with better data so they can better manage their water usage and fertiliser regime.

‘The overarching goal of the EEC project is to improve the quality of water flowing in the Great Barrier Reef. By working with people, and supporting them to learn from each other, we increase the possibility of practice change, which in turn benefits the environment. Even more importantly, the project team get to have a beer with some of the best people in the Far North on a regular basis, so we feel we are definitely on to a winner.’

This initiative is funded by the Queensland Government Reef Water Quality Program and delivered by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries with partner organisations Cape York NRM and Terrain NRM.