Yet with the climate crisis looming, our food systems are clearly in need of change: Not only is the way we produce food increasingly being threatened by climate change, but it is also a major contributor to it.
Photo: Rebecca Gorman (right) with Fiona Davis, CEO of Farmers for Climate Action (left)
Regenerative agriculture is the solution
For Rebecca Gorman, regenerative agriculture is the solution. And she strives to see this implemented both through her philanthropy and at a practical level on her farm.
“Early in my career as a journalist, I knew that environmental issues were coming at us from a lot of fronts. But like many people, I didn’t really feel like I had any power to do anything about it.”
As someone who had grown up on a farm, Rebecca tracked developments in regenerative agriculture including holistic management, permaculture and biodynamics during her time as a journalist. And after seeing the positive impact of holistic management on a close friend’s farm, Rebecca and husband John Sevior committed to purchasing a farm west of Gundagai in 2013 to practise sustainable agriculture themselves.
The attraction was simple: “Environmental difficulties become opportunities to do something about climate change in a very tangible way on a farm. And to be engaged in something that is part of environmental solutions is really empowering. There’s so many different things within agriculture that can ecologically improve land and reduce emissions radically – even to the point of drawing down carbon.”
As Rebecca has developed her knowledge of sustainable agriculture through her own farm, she has worked diligently to give others the opportunity to apply these practises too. This has meant providing philanthropic funding to organisations supporting producers, consumers and our food system at a policy level to embrace sustainability.
For farmers, Rebecca knows that there is an incredible enthusiasm for sustainable agriculture.
Farmers are resilient and resourceful people who love their land.
Once they start looking around at the principals of regenerative agriculture, they become extremely keen to integrate it into their practises. It’s a really growing and thriving grassroots movement that isn’t waiting for government or industry to move first.
Indeed, as the sector rapidly grows, eNGOs are playing a leading role in supporting farmers and consumers to make sustainable choices. One such organisation, Land to Market, of which Rebecca is a Director, is working hard to link good production with good ecology on farms through their Ecological Outcome Verification (EOV) program.
By helping farmers monitor ecological outcomes on their properties, Land to Market can observe where sustainable practises are having a positive impact on their land, and reward them with a certification for their products. “The science behind it is very rigorous — it’s not just a stamp,” Rebecca says.
A sustainable farm.
“Most other certifications talk about how you produce food, rather than the outcome for the land. What we’re saying here is that it doesn’t matter how you produce it — if your land isn’t improving then you won’t end up with this verification. The health of the land becomes a proxy for the health of the food.”
“It allows consumers to see that produce is coming from farms that pay a lot of attention to their ecology.” And with the potential for ecologically healthy farmland to drastically reduce emissions, as well as the program’s rapid expansion, the potential for EOV’s impact is massive.
Rebecca is conscious, however, that having high quality, sustainably produced food is pointless unless there is consumer demand — a key reason behind her support for community-based initiatives like Food Connect in Brisbane.
They’re a conduit for local farmers and for local food producers.
They’ve created a really vibrant food community that is supporting local sustainable farmers.
Food production can be at the heart of community building
And with drastically shorter supply chains combined with the ecological benefits of healthier farms, it is a drastically less carbon intensive means of getting food on to consumers’ plates. Combined with community facilities making it a hub for locals, “it’s a really beautiful example of how food production can be at the heart of community building,” Rebecca says.
It’s with this understanding of the power of networks that Rebecca values the AEGN. “It’s just fantastic. There are people in the AEGN who are extremely experienced in philanthropy, community building and the environment, and combined with Amanda and the team rallying people together, it’s great to be part of such a dedicated community.”
This meant that when AEGN CEO Amanda Martin told Rebecca about the Environmental Giving Pledge, Rebecca agreed to sign on immediately, despite her preference to keep her philanthropy private.
“There’s an understandable reticence in Australia for people to shout about their giving – it’s not our culture. But we’re now at a stage where we’re either going to drive off a climate cliff, or we’re going to do something about the problem. And if avoiding driving off that cliff means sticking our hand up and saying we’re giving this much, so be it.”
“It’s such a privilege to be in a position to try and be part of the solutions to climate change. We don’t take that for granted. And we are thrilled to be part of a community like the AEGN, where everyone is having a go in whatever way they can, just like we are.”
“That’s why we signed up to the Pledge – to encourage others to give too.”
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