Patrice Newell

An Important Read

Stairs extending from this beautiful deck in to the lawn below, from our  Rose Bay project

‘Who’s Minding the Farm? In this Climate Emergency.’

– by Patrice Newell, published by Penguin.

This is an important book for anyone who loves this sunburnt country of ours to read.  In an era of rapid climate change, this is a vital and heartfelt account of how agriculture can address major issues we are facing as a nation and also the entire planet.  Patrice and her husband Phillip, along with other Aussie farmers are at the frontline of enormous challenges, from water scarcity and land stewardship to food security and the rural-urban divide.  The devastation of drought and the crises created by industrial-scale, chemically-dependant primary production is discussed, and alternatives proposed – along with bold ideas for new sources of energy. 

Patrice has travelled the world exploring and investigating best practices and invested heavily in organic methods on her farm.  This is a hopeful book – she believes we can produce enough food to feed the world without further environmental damage or loss of biodiversity.  We just need to think and act differently.

I especially love the way Patrice lovingly writes of ‘soil’ and the importance of soil regenerative practices.

Here’s an excerpt from the introduction to her book:

The fifth of December is World Soil Day. It was officially adopted by the 68th UN General Assembly in 2013., but in Australia a much bigger fuss is made each year about a horse race in Melbourne and a yacht race arriving in Hobart. Soil is our lifeblood: it needs to have a fuss made about it. And since there’s nowhere on the planet that hasn’t been affected by the human species, we need to think not in terms of preserving some unspoilt ecosystem or a patch of pure soil, but in terms of repairing the damage. It’s time to face the facts – and to try to change those facts
Patrice Newell

Patrice Newell

 ‘Who’s Minding the Farm?’ is a window into the trials and tribulations of life on the land, but most importantly it promotes new ways of thinking and reminds us that ‘minding the farm’ is a shared responsibility for us all.

In the spirit of Patrice’s book here are 3 tips for fostering happy soil and a reminder that growing your own garden is one of the best things you can do for both your health and the health of the planet.  And of course, the key to it all is growing healthy soil!

Feed your Soil

Add compost, animal or green manure, coffee grounds, and mulch to help build up soil organic matter. Turn your leftover food scraps or garden trimmings into nutrient-rich compost for this purpose. You can also buy worms, add them directly to your compost bin, and collect their casings (a very pure, nutrient-dense form of compost). Contact your local coffee shop to see if you can collect their coffee grounds. There are many lifeforms in the soil including bacteria and fungi, etc that you will feed with these additives which is important for retaining good soil structure.  Together, these organisms help convert organic matter and soil minerals into nutrients which plants love.

Cover your Soil

Protect your soil from the elements by keeping it covered with lots of plants especially ground covers and mulch.  Mulch helps the soil retain moisture, which is so important during drought, ground covers also help protect and balance the soil’s nutrient profile and enhance biodiversity. As a kind of ‘living mulch’ it discourages weeds, wards of disease and attracts birds, butterflies and other insects that are beneficial.

Analyse your Soil

Perhaps speak to your local nurseryman about the type of soil in your area and which nutrient additives your soil may need.  Once you know which nutrients to supplement your garden with, you can make the necessary adjustments