Nestled between Ross and Campbell Town on the Midland Highway, Tasmania, lies Lewisham, an ethical wool-producing property. Owned and operated by Lindsay and Rae Young, the approach at Lewisham is simple: utilising landcare principles to farm with the landscape and ensure sheep have a good life free from hunger, thirst, discomfort, illness and disease.
The aim of Lewisham is to create one big insectarium. That's what we want and so we continue to fence, plant and manage differently in the hopes that one day this will be achieved.
We figure if you bring the insects back, the rest will follow. As long as the basics are there, like a place to live and food to eat, the insects will come.
The trouble with insects and spiders is they are small and they often get bad press as well, especially spiders. But they are necessary for a healthy world and we must cater for them.
The world at large is suffering from a serious decline in insects and arthropods and we want to reverse that trend on our patch.
If we encourage diverse and abundant life, it may help us get through the dramatic vicissitudes in climate that we are experiencing.
Planting has been happening at Lewisham since 1998 and continues. Not every year but when it is feasible.
Last year we used funding from Landcare Tasmania to fence four paddocks into 16 paddocks, improving productivity, soils and diversity. We also planted 18,000 trees and shrubs into 18 hectares that was fenced off. This area is now teeming with a range of insects because the sheep never get in there and consume all the "homes".
When you drive around and look at a paddock which has not been grazed for two to three months, with grass knee high, it is covered in gossamer, egg sacs and life. Drive or walk through a recently grazed paddock and the abundance is missing.
Small paddocks and intense grazings equals ubiquitous life, exactly what the landscape needs. This year we are planting another 20,000 trees and shrubs on 20 hectares that have been fenced off with a grant from the Australian Government National Landcare Program.
Measuring the improvements that result from planting can be difficult. However, if common sense prevails you can see the difference. There is no question about why you may give up land and invest. The result of all this effort for us is a flock of satisfied sheep, a couple of gratified farmers and lots of good quality wool.
- This article first appeared in the magazine Landcare in Focus.