Are Farming Methods Coming Full Circle?

I had a horticultural training recently. It was provided as part of the assistance by government to try and get me back into work. With it being over 20 years since I've been officially employed, I'm not seen as very employable, hence the obligatory assistance.

Not surprisingly, communication between the people offering the course and the employment agency sending me there wasn't great. For the induction I was told 10am over the phone, then 11am in a text, then 10am again when I double checked. Needless to say it was 11am and I turned up an hour early, which is better than late, I guess.

I was told there would be a certificate at the end of the course and potential for employment, also food and drink would be put on. They had a kitchen and you could make yourself a cuppa if you wished, but no food, and there was no certificate or anything really to say you did the course. It was really just a brief overview of a course and you could state that you did it on any applications you might put in for work in the growing region.

The potential employment was in the form of taking you to some local growers after your done the theory in the morning. Most of them were actually winding down for the season and no longer needed workers, which were essentially pickers and packers.

At SA tomatoes, who ironically don't even supply South Australia, but Queensland and New South Wales instead.

Yet, ever the one to take what I can from any given situation, I think I came home with lots of new information. After half a day of compulsory Work Health and Safety, which I've heard multiple times before, I also gleaned from our trainer that some of the growers in Adelaide are starting to move over to alternative methods for pest control in the form of the good bugs programme. Our first grower visit actually demonstrated this in their greenhouses. The next day we went much more in depth into the multiple pest control methods some of the growers have been using and why.

The region has been growing food crops for 30+ years and has an horrific pest problem, because after all that time spraying the pests have developed resistance to the pesticides. This means that short of going more and more toxic, which starts to pose a real danger to both workers and consumers, they are running out of options. As many growers use greenhouses, using predator bugs to tackle the pests is more easily contained than releasing them out in the open. Sadly the first year was a failure, because the pest loads were just too high. However, as the beneficial bugs began to build up, they started to see the programme working in the subsequent years. As more growers started using the bugs their populations increased as well, improving things further. They went from spraying regularly to spraying only a couple of times a season, and occasionally not at all.


Along with the good bugs, other measures are implemented around the farms. A two door system in the greenhouses reduces the amount of pests finding their way in. There is a clear zone around the growing areas which is kept meticulously weed free, so as not to allow the pests a habitat to breed in. Boundary hedges have been replanted as wind breaks which stop pests from being blown in from neighbouring farms or being tramped in by people wandering from one farm to another. In the greenhouses they have sticky insect traps so the levels of pests and beneficials can be monitored. Action isn't taken unless the pests get above a certain tolerance level. Then the health of the plants is a high priority as well, because they will resist pests much better if they are strong and healthy.

Workers are taught to recognise diseases, pests and their effects on the plants, so that when something is spotted the area can be quarantined to stop spread and the necessary action can be taken. For some diseases it may still mean that the entire greenhouse needs treating, but if it's caught early is can be handled with less toxic methods than if it were to get out of hand.

As someone who is passionate about organic growing practices this was exciting news for me. Finally commercial growers are starting to see the benefits of not constantly spraying poisons onto crops.

On the third day the trainer talked about getting growers back to using compost and cover crops for crops grown in the soil (many are grown hydroponically). Much of the soil health has been lost due to intensive growing for decades. I couldn't help but comment that we're coming full circle back to the practices used before artificial fertilisers.

These growers aren't trying to grow organically by any means. For many of them the clincher has been that the practices have saved them money. It's much cheaper not to have to constantly pay for the chemicals needed to spray every few weeks. Using compost reduces fertiliser costs, increases yields and helps the soil to retain moisture which reduces water usage. I asked about alternative options to herbicides on the farms, for example steam or boiling water, but they are less cost effective than weed killers, so unfortunately it seems herbicides will continue to be used for the foreseeable future.

Sadly many of the older growers are stuck in their ways and are afraid of the risks of changing how they've done things all their lives, so winning them over has been slow going. For the time being they are also not really looking into using the good bugs programme outside of the greenhouses. One of the farms we visited was growing hydroponic lettuces which were shaded, but not in greenhouses. I asked how they managed with pest control there with it being open and the response was that they would have to spray. I felt like they didn't even have it in their sights to try the good bugs programme for farmlands as a whole. Yet if all the growers in the region began to apply the programme, while it may take time for the beneficial bugs to build up, they would eventually and I think if they took a closer look they'd realise this. After all, they've already acknowledged that more farmers doing the good bug programme in the greenhouses has increased its effectiveness, so they obviously don't stay in the greenhouses, they must also be breeding outside of them.

I feel like it's a positive step and while progress is slow over time farmers are moving towards more regenerative practices.


Sounds like you had a good training session and got some value out of it

Yes, I enjoyed it for the most part. Got to ask lots of questions. 😁

I think it's GREAT to see regenerative practices creeping back in!! And I seriously like - and agree with - the natural methods being a huge money saver long term, both in terms of containing costs and increasing yields. We see that here with the refugee communities.

Are you actively looking for some kind of paid growing-farming work or was this just a mandatory event to be able to continue receiving government benefits??

Love that you took good things away from the experience. x

I've actually been looking at horticultural work in any gardening, nursery or farming type of setting, so I jumped at the offer of training, because I have no qualifications in that area. The concept is really good and I was pretty impressed that government seemed to be offering these options. So I was rather disappointed that it wasn't what I expected. I'm still no closer to having something to back me up there. Had I turned it down, then there is a chance I would have lost benefits, but they have been really good at trying to get me into work or training to match my interests and skills.

The work at the growers is piece work and requires minimum targets, which I already know I'll struggle to achieve, because I'm slow at everything I do; but these are the entry level positions, so I'm unlikely to have much chance of moving forward there. I am seriously considering looking at a horticultural course now though, if we can afford it.

Awesome article as more people recognize the threat of not understanding what has been don to grow their foods we are starting to see a resurgence in organic farming. I am doing my part in my community seems like you are doing yours, seems like we have also had the struggle of finding decent employment. One of the main reasons why I got into farming is because I have found a hard time finding a decent paying job.

I'm 28 with an AD yet have never made over $15/ hr I do work for New Age Nerds and we have gotten our 1st funding round completed so that is a plus other than that I have been disillusioned with finding a job.

I was very lucky to get in contact with the CEO of New Age Nerds to get a job. Crypto Currencies and the Blockchain has been one of the biggest changers of my life though giving me the ability to actually purchase my own land 300 acres, give New Age Nerds a testing site for AG Tech and start my career in farming.

That's fantastic that you've managed to purchase land. I hope we see something of your journey with that.

Was it crypto that led you to Hive?

I just noticed you profile pic is the same as Samstonehill's. 😆 Coincidence or do you have a connection?

Its on the way.
my past experience yeah. This place kept my head on straight during the last wild rides.
Idk about that last question

I'm actually confused about that last bit myself. I think it was a Peakd glitch on your cross post of his. It was showing your profile pic, for some reason. It's gone back to his pic now I've clicked through and refreshed. 😵‍💫

It is great that you want to attend training and figure out what you want to pursue. Agriculture is not easy but it can be a great activity if you enjoy it. Farmers have to tackle with a lot of challenges.

It was a real eye opener for sure!

I agree. Many farmers refuse to adopt new techniques. But it's so very important to not just run the farming but to make the world more surviving.
I don't have much knowledge about agriculture but I'm very eager to learn. Good to go through your posts. I hope your training will make you more informed.

It's good to try and keep an open mind to change, especially as we learn new things and realise the impact of things we thought were the right thing to do.
Thank you for dropping by.

I am amazed, it is amazing to see you blooming on here via the votes, superb, you deserve it, post more, take it and run with it, that is the community saying they like what you post, run with it gal, big up to you, shit 2 years, have a good one. May you and your family be blessed.

Awe, thank you. To be honest I strike to find the time to post more what with all the community work and curation. I'm not even interacting as much as I'd like.

It has been an awful two years and it's probably not over yet. I'll try to keep up to date with you, I hope you're staying safe. Who knows how far things will go with this war and it's right on your doorstep. There's no saying it won't be on all our doorsteps if things escalate, though.

Very interesting read!

I couldn't help but think that if the governments and the majority of the people would start thinking in 'good bug' terminology, once again, we would all be a lot free-er, healthier and happier.

C*vid pun

Sadly it takes generations to change perspectives...

getting growers back to using compost and cover crops for crops grown in the soil

This is singularly the most effective thing I do in my garden.

Really interesting to read. A shame the old farmers are closed minded. There's proven success with these 'new' old methods. Hopefully one day it'll swing fully around. Daft buggers.

The trainer seemed really passionate about compost; it was lovely to see. Had me grinning along with him.

I've a good friend at Murray Bridge who's having troubles getting workers for his nursery and I know growers at Angle vale who are closing their gates because there is a shortage of labour. None of these are interested in certificates or training.

We're stuck in a place where the paperwork is more important than a strong back and a willingness to work.

Yet I've applied for this kind of work multiple times and never heard anything back. I'm not sure what the deal breaker is, but there could be an assumption that Aussies (white ones) don't work hard. I noticed nearly all the employees at the growers were foreign. However, I can also see why many Aussies wouldn't want to work the hours and conditions some places ask for. We're talking 7-5 minimum, 6 days a week and sometimes 7, with earlier starts when it gets light earlier. In one of the places we saw, the chlorine for processing was worse than being in the swimming baths. It was overpowering!

One of the growers was willing to consider part time. The chap running the course was saying that they are starting to realise that if they're asking for flexibility then they also need to offer some flexibility to their workers.

I noticed a lot of the work was piece work too, so you have to pick a minimum to make your hourly wage. If you can't then I guess you're out the door or your hourly wage drops? If you're a fast worker it can be a good wage, though. I'm absolutely not fast...

It's definitely true that white Aussies don't want to work hard in those conditions. We've been sheltered too much. Saying that, those I know who work in those fields while they are young and single do quite well.

Sadly, you couldn't work at some of the biggest employers around here though - the chicken 'farms'.

Oh gosh, there's no way I could handle that work! I'm kind of glad to have the excuse of having chickens, so they wouldn't have me anyway due to the bio risk. Shaun knew someone working for Inghams processing who tried to get him work there, but he couldn't face it. He's not sqeemish, but he loves animals.

You're right, if I didn't have family, then I'd have no issues with the work or hours. Things change when you realise you want a work life balance, though. Your priorities shift as you get older.

As I get older, my priorities haven't had a shift, they've had a landslide!

Funny how huge the shift in priorities becomes. Things that were so important when we were younger seem trifling now too.

At my age, and being a guy, everything is trifling except for one's libido 🙄


 2 years ago  

I love this kind of training program which will englighting we coming farmers what we are expected to go for at the right time. More also. Using chemical fertilizers are not the best to nourish our crops. But sometimes we do not have a choice in between the Planting Season. Good one here @minismallholding

There is so much involved in growing crops. Sometimes you just can't get the nutrient balance right with compost alone, especially in tough conditions. I have a lot of respect for the time and effort that goes into farming.

I'm noticing these shifts in thinking here too and it's really good to see

That's wonderful! Glad to hear it's shifting on this kind of scale. It could take a generation or two, but hopefully we'll get there.

This is very important work keep it up.

Sounds great work keep it up brother