THE Andrews family of the iconic Bylong Valley property Tarwin Park shut the gate on four decades of dedication to landscape reformation and education on Sunday.
Peter Andrews OAM bought the property in the mid 1970s and put his Natural Sequence Farming theories into practice.
Korean energy company KEPCO bought the property in 2014, when the Andrews were left little option but to sell as land was bought up to dig an open cut and underground coal mine.
Peter’s son Stuart had more recently run cattle at Tarwyn Park, and signed an eight year lease when it was sold to KEPCO in 2014. But KEPCO has called in the lease and the Andrews must depart.
“This is the evidence here,” Stuart said on Saturday as hundreds of visitors saw first hand the Andrews’ work on the land.
“It will be absolutely devastating to see Natural Sequence Farming leave Tarwyn Park. A travesty of justice.”
Tarwyn Park is a “showcase property” which contains 40 years of know-how that can motivate people to value land management, he said.
Natural Sequence Farming centres on restoration of natural water flows – in water course and across the landscape.
The land was contoured to slow down water flow in the creek and across the floodplain – which lays across the aquifer at the head of the valley’s groundwater system.
At Tarwyn Park, water flows from the surrounding escarpment. At the top of the floodplain which underlays the pastures, water hits a bank and soaks the ground to maximise aquifer recharge – while trapping soil and distributing nutrients across the pastures.
The creek bed has been converted from a gouged gully into nutrient-distribution systems with erosion control structures – which appear as natural weirs woven with plants.
A greater number and diversity of plants can grow on the banks, which also helps to slow flow and critically, adds yet more nutrients which will spread throughout the system.
On Saturday 400 people came to Tarwyn Park to support the call to NSW Government to issue an interim heritage order, which would ensure the property is maintained in its current state.
The Andrews called on KEPCO to commit to preserving the store of knowledge represented in the landscape restoration on Tarwyn Park – but to date they have not indicated what lays ahead for Natural Sequence Farming.
He has turned his attention to a grazing enterprise he is establishing north of Brisbane and Peter is working with the Mulloon Institute, which promote holistic landscape management and rehydration.
Tarwyn Park was established in 1918 and grew to become on of NSW’s premier Thoroughbred studs. The stables have housed famous horses including Rain Lover, Heroic and Nuffield.
Natural Sequence boosts farm fertility
Stuart Andrews bought Tarwyn Park from his father Peter in the late 1990s and continued to practice Natural Sequence Farming, which had been developed on the property since mid-1970s.
He has established a 10 day training course in Natural Sequence Farming and also boasts some impressive improvements to the land while running a commercial beef trading operation.
Tarwyn Park abuts Stuart’s other property Iron Tank – which is also under lease from KEPCO and has been handed back. Together they have 450 hectares of productive land.
He runs between 300 to 500 head of Angus steer – which he buys in at 200 kilograms and sells out at 500kg.
Productivity has ramped-up productivity to three times above pre-Natural Sequence Farming levels and soil carbon content has risen by 3 per cent, Stuart said.
“You can build soil carbon to a point where it is constantly aggrading.
“But people need to earn a living and that is what we have been able to show here, being productive to pay bills at same time.
“I’ve been running cattle and soil carbon is lifting.”
Tarwyn Park uses no fertilisers or chemical controls and relies only on rainfall to water pasture.
Pattersons Curse was rife when he took over from Peter, who ran Tarwyn Park as a Thoroughbred stud. He switched to cattle and eventually “got the weeds down to practically zero” but his commercial operation suffered.
“Productivity slipped as diversity dropped,” Stuart said.
“Weeds are just another plant – we have learnt how to work them into the farming enterprise. We rely on diversity to build the soil – the surrounding hills bring the parent material, sand, to the flood plain. And I have never seen anything growing on the beach.”
“You can see here what can be done with Natural Sequence Farming. If people can’t see the goal its hard to change what you are doing today.”
“If the mine does go ahead, or even if it doesn’t this land needs to be looked after as best as possible,” Stuart said.
A spokesman for KEPCO said the comany will endeavour to keep Tarwyn Park operating as a productive property.
“KEPCO will not be mining the alluvial floodplain of the Bylong River on which the Natural Sequence Farming area is located. This area will be retained and managed,” he said.
The company has not determined if it can maintain Natural Sequence Farming practices, but said it would investigate local aquifer systems in an effort to minimise mining impacts to groundwater.
“In its Environmental Impact Statement (KEPCO) committed to undertake a comprehensive study into the potential applications of soil hydrology techniques into mining rehabilitation.”