Following our meeting with Jim Pearce MP, we’ve been thinking about what a Sugar Cane Demonstration Farm could look like. On Saturday Kim and I sat down with farmer Simon Mattsson and brainstormed a few ideas. I made the scrappy sketch pictured above while we talked.
Fundamental idea 1: The Sugar Cane Demonstration Farm needs to be farmer-led. In other words, this is a bottom-up operation, not controlled by government policy nor industry pressure.
Fundamental idea 2: The Demonstration Farm needs to be commercially viable. In other words, any subsidy or financial support should not “prop up” the ordinary commercial running of the farm. The farm itself has to be shown to be a “normal” business. Any funding is just for the “plug-ins” which support research and education.
Structure: The Demonstration Farm has four basic aspects:
- Commercial farm (which Simon is already doing);
- Research (including resident or visiting soil scientists and agronomists, as well as infrastructure to support their work);
- Education (extension officers and communication people, as well as the infrastructure to support workshops on site);
- Accommodation (for visiting farmers, scientists, and members of the public).
So far we’re pushing along with this with naive enthusiasm. I’m hoping that we’ll find some existing models for how to run a demonstration farm that we can steal ideas from!
Ian Milliss (our collaborator in NSW) dug around and found this article which uses the concept of the demonstration farm in the sugar industry. One of the authors is Jon Brodie from TropWATER, who we are going to visit in Townsville tomorrow.