Growing up on a station in Deniliquin, in the Riverina region of New South Wales, Simon Falkiner has always loved the land.
Now 50-plus years later, the Freshwater Creek farmer was a top-three finalist in this year’s Bob Hawke National Landcare Awards.
Mr Falkiner was nominated by colleagues for the award presented every two years; honouring those with a remarkable commitment to caring for the land; champions better practices; and shares knowledge with others so that they too can prosper.
Simon, a fourth-generation farmer runs a 600-acre mixed enterprise farm that produces meat merinos, cereals and
oilseed crops; while prioritising farming techniques that preserve the lands biodiversity.
“I’ve always been a farmer. I finished school, went jackarooing for a year and moved down here in 1970 where I complete a Farm Management Diploma at Marcus Oldham,” he said.
Simon’s focus on maintaining soil health and his integrated pest and grazing management has made him a leading advocate for best-practice Landcare; his farm has hosted longterm trials testing everything from soil acidification and biology to pasture cover and cropping.
“We need to clothe and feed the world and agriculture is at the centre of that.
One of the appeals to me is the diverse nature of farming and what it leads to. There’s something for everyone in agriculture.”
In the beginning Simon’s farming philosophy was based solely around production.
“When I started, production was at the forefront of my decisions – producing as much as you could for as little cost as possible. Now when I look at how I produce things, I look at the consequences of that production system.
“I ask, ‘Am I polluting the waterways?’,
‘Am I polluting the environment?’, ‘Am I improving the soil?’ and that’s what drives my decisions now.”
“If I can find a soft way of achieving production goals then I’ll do that. I utilise integrated pest management on our
farm, we have a predator nursery. It sounds like science fiction, but it’s native grassland designed to house an army of natural predators (spiders, wasps).
“When insect pests fly in the cavalry are already here to attack them. We haven’t had to use pesticide for over 10
Marcus Oldham students regularly visit his farm to learn about the various techniques implemented in order to reduce the carbon footprint and impact on the environment.
“My mindset change was triggered by a concern about the reliance on chemicals of farming systems. Whether
it be livestock or cropping, chemicals have become the cornerstone of our production systems.
“I always felt there was a better way, once you start ameliorating the subsoil, putting in predator nurseries etc,
you realise there are natural ways to overcome the challenges to agriculture in high rainfall zones.
“This award was a great recognition, not only for myself, but for the Corangamite region and what we are doing here. It showed we are right up there in Australia with innovative farming practices.”