The Mulloon Institute  -  Enews - February 2019

From the Chairman, The Mulloon Institute

With only 28 days in February, the end of the month came quickly and before I knew it we were in March and I still had my monthly update to prepare. So it seemed to me that February was quite "fervid" and with its definition including "impassioned", "fervent", "hot" and "glowing", it seemed appropriate on numerous accounts.

We are always very "impassioned" here at The Mulloon Institute (TMI) so that fits, as does "fervent" with "intense feeling" being one of its definitions; "hot" was very appropriate for February with many days well into the 30's, although I'm not sure about "glowing" but I'm sure there is a link somewhere.

The "fervid" activities of February began with a re-screening of the Australian Story episode of 'Hope Springs' on ABC TV in early February, creating another flurry of interest and inquiry around our landscape rehydration work here at Mulloon!

Climate solutions?

In last month's update I spoke about the  Murray Darling situation and commented that repair and rehydration of the catchments of that basin would be a substantial part of the solution. Since then I've been quite "impassioned" when prosecuting that argument far and wide. But still the public debate remains a "them" and "us" choice, "them" being the water users and "us" being the environment.

It doesn't have to be that way as the "pie" or total amount of water could be that much bigger if serious catchment rehydration was undertaken. The Federal Government subsequently announced more funding to go into what will now be titled the Climate Solutions Fund, revamping the previous Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF). 

All very nice but we don't know what the rules are going to be. If they remain the same as the ERF then TMI probably won't be able to target that funding even though we know our work is having a very positive effect on emissions. The problem with the ERF was the rules made it totally uneconomic for us to comply and lots of other good work missed out as well. So we must wait and see. But I'm reliably informed the Government will have more to say on drought resilience and regenerative agriculture in coming weeks.

Image: Water still flowing out of Peter's Pond in late February 2019.
Soils for Life

Soils for Life Chairman and TMI's Patron, General Michael Jeffery, will certainly be watching that space as well. Also as the Government's Soil Advocate he has provided substantial policy initiatives for the Government to pick up that it covers all of these issues as well as ensuring the next generations understand where their food and fibre comes from, and importantly how it can continue to flow sustainably. General Jeffery has certainly been "fervid" on these matters and hopefully the Government has taken heed.

Speaking of Soils for Life (S4L), that organisation is continuing to develop case studies of innovative farming operations that are demonstrating best practice in managing their soils, vegetation and water. One of those case studies underway is on the Mulloon Community Landscape Rehydration Project (MCLRP) and during February on-camera interviews were conducted with me, Peter Hazell and MCLRP landholders Gerry Carroll, John West and Ulli and Sue Tuisk. Meanwhile Richard Thackway has prepared a  Vegetation Assessment State Transition (VAST) report with input from our Research Coordinator, Luke Peel, and landholders as part of the S4L case study.

Mulloon Consulting, Contracting & Certifying

MCCC activities continue at a "fervid" pace in various parts of the country with Cam Wilson working flat out on design for the NQ Dry Tropics demonstration farms in North Queensland. That part of the country hasn't fitted its "Dry Tropics" name of late but all the more reason to get the landscape repair and rehydration right to limit sediment flow to the Great Barrier Reef while helping farmers to be more productive.

Meanwhile, Carolyn Hall is negotiating with State and Local Governments over regulations that, in our opinion, inadvertently create more and costly red tape to our attempts of environmental repair projects. As we said to one local government representative, "one doesn't need approval to cause environmental degradation but one does to 'fix it'". We are reminded of similar situations when the pilot project was proposed on the Home Farm back in 2006 so just like then we are hopeful common sense will prevail.

Image: Cam Wilson and landholder Tim Whelan surveying 'Bumbleginny'.
Mulloon Creek Natural Farms

A "fervid" or "hot" topic on most farms is  weed management and as  MCNF are certified organic and biodynamic this adds another dimension to finding potential solutions.

This is where our  Science Advisory Council is very helpful with offering advice on  establishing a science based approach to testing various solutions. They have been working with Luke Peel and others at TMI as well as  Farm Manager Michael Fitzgerald to develop on-farm research to monitor alternate weed management strategies . Both serrated tussock and blackberries will be targeted in the various trials.
The growth of TMI's work is very much linked to the growth and success of MCNF as all profits from that agriculture enterprise are helping to fund TMI's research and on-ground activities. Accordingly Michael Fitzgerald's farm team have been very engaged in growing the poultry side of MCNF. To meet increasing demand for our certified organic eggs from free-range*, pasture-raised hens, new infrastructure is now in place including an additional brood shed to raise day old chicks. Plenty of "fervid" work from our dedicated farm staff during February. (*less than 250 birds/ha!)

Watch also for special in-store promotions during the year at your local  Harris Farm Markets stores, including our current one on  'Stocking Density'.

Science and research

TMI's Science Advisory Council is looking to get its technical and science reporting out to a wider audience by generating technical and scientific papers and engaging post-graduate students to undertake a wide variety of studies in hydrology, soils, flora and fauna, farm productivity and profitability, and social and community engagement.

And a collaboration between TMI, NSW Office of Environment & Heritage (Damon Oliver), University of Canberra (Dr Will Osborne)  and landholders will  have  frog habitat surveys  conducted  at Mulloon  by Sam Patmore,  with a longer term view to a potential translocation program for green and gold bell frogs and yellow spotted bell frogs.
Educational opportunities

Research Coordinator Luke Peel has several school field trips in the pipeline including a visit from Year 12 Agriculture students from The Scots College and Year 9 Geography students from Barker College. He has also been working with a couple of keen Year 12 students to set up their STEM project work for the year.

In the field, baseline and survey work continues, and there are opportunities for tertiary students to be involved in this work, including a broad range of projects for honours, masters and PhD students to undertake post graduate studies in flora, fauna, hydro and soils and production systems as part of the Mulloon Community Landscape Rehydration Project (MCLRP). Contact Luke Peel for more information via

ANU  currently has an opportunity for Honours students to take part in follow-up work on the 2015-16 Macroinvertebrate study that set out to determine and measure the biological and physical parameters of water quality in the Mulloon Creek catchment. Read more, or contact Principal Investigator Paul Cooper via

Training for land managers

March is shaping up to be yet another busy month with the first of our next phase of four day workshops in conjunction with Tarwyn Park Training currently underway at MCNF. Another three courses will follow over March and April in response to the incredible interest shown following last year's Australian Story episode. While the March and April courses are now fully booked, dates for spring courses are being discussed to accomodate demand.

Upcoming training dates:     18 - 21 March,     25 - 28 March,     29 April - 2 May,   Spring

Please contact James Diack to have your name added to the waiting list for upcoming training, and 0438 211 155.

Access our training dates and other upcoming events by visiting out Events Calendar page.

Mulloon Creek Tours

Several groups of innovative farmers joined us for creek tours during February to learn about the regenerative practices being implemented at  Mulloon Creek Natural Farms, including members of the  East Gippsland Landcare Network and farmers from Benalla (Vic), Cooma (NSW) and New Zealand.  If your local Landcare group is interested in a similar tour, CLICK HERE to find out more.

We are also running a series of Mulloon Creek (Mini) Field Days during April 2019 with tickets $55 each and limited to 25 per tour. READ MORE  *Please note: The tours on Friday 15 & 22 March have been cancelled due to low numbers. Refunds will be issued shortly to those who had already booked, or contact us to transfer your ticket to an April tour.
Landscape Resilience Forum

Save the date for Upper Shoalhaven Landcare's Landscape Resilience Forum

Showcasing stories from locals who are actively building landscape resilience to climate change. This event will explore how rural communities and farmers can help build landscape resilience in their own regions and on their own farms.

Speakers: Gary Nairn AO, Professor Mark Howden, Prof Geoff Hope, Sue Ogilvy, Martin Royds, Gill Sandbrook, David Watson, David Marsh, Peter Andrews OAM, Peter Hazell.

When - Thursday 30 May 2019     Time - 9am - 4pm
Where - 'The Barn', Mulloon Creek Natural Farms     Price - TBC
I look forward to reporting on those and much more at the end of March. In the meantime all the very best and many thanks for the great support we get from our thousands of followers.

Best wishes,

Gary Nairn AO
The Mulloon Institute, Chairman


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