Recently, I was invited to write an article for Island magazine around the theme ‘The Future of Tasmania’ and what I would like it to look like… Here’s what I wrote…
As a gardener, permaculture educator and landscape designer, when I think about the future of Tasmania, this little island at the bottom of the world with clean air, water, decent soils and rainfall – I think about agriculture and our relationship to this spectacular landscape.
Once upon a time the First Nations people of Australia managed this country as a whole for 10s of thousands of years. Like mainland Australia, the Palawa people used fire-stick farming to hunt animals, manage soil health and regenerate the land. Without a doubt they were some of the most sophisticated and successful agriculturalists ever.
Right now agriculture in Tasmania is predominantly based on the same model most of the world is following – big is better, monoculture focused and export orientated. However around the edges of this is an industry of small growers and producers in both urban and rural contexts offering up some of the best food and produce in the world. As an unwritten rule, they’re organic (certified or not), sell a significant portion of their produce within Tasmania and have a strong connection to their community.
Another general rule is that, with a few exceptions, they’re financially just scrapping by as they compete with big business. While small agriculture might ultimately be better for our environment and communities, it doesn’t always stand up to the current reality where lack of government support and debt can cripple enterprises. Something needs to change.
Lets jump ahead 100 years where agriculture is radically changed. There’s an over-riding manifesto of how people do agriculture and it goes something like this…
The whole island is organic due to the necessity of needing to look after natural resources.
Central to education is how we relate to our landscape. Farmers or not, we all know the basics, that without a healthy earth we’re stuffed. No one’s trying to commodify or ravage it – it’s simply not an option.
A significant portion of all cultivated land is under perennial food crops providing high yields and health for our soils and ground water. Annual crops are still grown, but in appropriate sized patches amongst a perennial landscape.
For meat, we no longer only farm livestock such as cows, sheep and pigs, but have also fully embraced sustainably harvesting wild wallabies, possums and the like for protein and for population control. Livestock are grazed beneath large nut orchards and no landscape is put under monoculture crops as everyone knows this only provides short-term gain, which just isn’t good enough any more.
Interstate trade and exporting of produce still happens, but only with a strong filter of sound ethics and only once Island folk are catered for. No one eats crap, processed food as it was phased out rapidly in the 2030s once the health effects were too bad to ignore.
Land ownership is more fluid with people being able to access land without having to go into debt. And while there might still be fences to contain livestock, we manage landscapes as a whole, just like the Palawa people once did.
And at the end of the day in this future of ours, when you look across this spectacular landscape, your heart will beat loud knowing that you’re part of it.
- If you’d like to read other’s thoughts on the future of Tasmania, subscribe to Island magazine today.