A dry summer and wet winter is the natural cycle for our climactic zone. The first decent rain of Autumn is referred to as the ‘Autumn break’, as it’s the indication of a shift in weather and a break in the long dry spell of Summer.
What a Summer it was! Seemingly endless heatwaves wreaked havoc not only on our crops but on our bodies as well. Quick dips in the dam (or the storage chiller) were a godsend.
In terms of just the rainfall, some of us benefit from dryness in spring/summer while others would flourish with more consistent rainfall. Less rain means less chance that fungus can take hold in the orchard, however it also means less feed for the dairy cows and more pressure from kangaroos.
One of the beauties of the co-op is that our farming enterprises can integrate towards a ‘circular’ agroecological system that not only regenerates land and reduces waste but has more resilience. For example, the crop residues from both the orchard and the market garden were used to augment the cows’ nutrition requirements. This helps to reduce the amount of externally sourced feed. We are lucky enough in Harcourt to have access to excellent underground irrigation that is sourced from a series of reservoirs. That water is used to refill our beautiful damn, which we then pump out of to irrigate our crops and animals (yes it is more than just a swimming pool!).
Water security is a major concern for all farmers (and people who eat food), so as long as that Autumn break does come, we can continue to grow food in an ethical and sustainable way. However, there’s more to the story. Part of a regenerative approach to farming is improving the water holding capacity of the soil. By slowing down water and allowing it to rehydrate the land, we improve our water security and become more resilient in times of dryness.
So as I sit here with a hot cuppa and watch the clouds roll over, I relish each drop that falls and dream of an agroecological future. A future in which we harness the power of regenerative agriculture to halt climate change and species extinction.