When Luke St George, the Director of Pure Produce Regenerative Farms, purchased his first property in 2010, there were certain things about the conventional method of farming that just weren’t sitting well with him.
Lancewood Station, which has a 4.5km frontage along the Burdekin River, was predominantly used by Luke to produce hay crops.
“We farmed there pretty intensively for six years and we were farming conventionally, with big inputs of synthetic fertilisers and all the herbicides,” Luke explains.
“We were producing good crops, but over time we were watching our yield come down and our inputs going up and up. The fertiliser reps just kept telling us to use more product, we saw a lot less water infiltration, we were irrigating much more than we did at the start.
”The rising cost of production led Luke to go on a research journey around 2016-2017, where he stumbled across regenerative farming practices. While not a new practice, regenerative farming is having a re-emergence as industrial farming practices are blamed for a range of problems within the agricultural sector.”
Before we sold Lancewood in 2019, we started experimenting with regenerative practices, knocking back inputs of chemical fertilisers, went to a mixed species crop and followed the key principles of regenerative farming and saw changes pretty quickly and for the better,” Luke continues.
“I knew at that stage we were on the right track. We ended up selling Lancewood and purchasing more property at the bottom of Hervey’s Range which is where Pure Produce Farms is today.”
The regenerative farming model was implemented from day one, and Luke says the benefits have been huge across the board.
“We’ve seen a huge improvement on water infiltration, organic matter levels started to climb, the nutrient density of our crops started to climb, and it’s all due to the increased soil biology.
“The more biodiverse the soil is, the more active it is, creating a healthier plant and the plant in turn can store more carbon in the soil and build the organic matter in the soil.”
The aim of Pure Produce farms is to provide a nutrient dense beef line that is of a high eating quality and bred to withstand the tropical climate.
“We’ve spent about 12 years producing a genetic line of beef that is basically a Tropical Angus,” Luke says.
“Once we had the beef sorted out, we turned our attention to the biodiversity of the crops. What we’re really focussing on now is measuring and improving the nutrient density of the plants which then transfers into the beef. In time, we’re going to have a beef product that will be higher in nutrients than what you would get in a conventionally farmed animal.
”The paddock-to-plate operation ensures quality control over the product is consistent.
“Doing everything ourselves gives us the power to ensure our product is the best it can be,” Luke says.
Luke sees potential for scalability, although he notes that competing for large commercial contracts is not the aim. Rather, he believes that encouraging other producers to farm in this way will improve the overall quality of product in the industry, which benefits consumers, producers and the environment.
“Regenerative farming is a long-term investment. Early stages will present a lot of challenges, finding the right feed mix, controlling pest infestation on the livestock, managed grazing… but once it’s all set those outlays can become virtually nil.
“Much of our early costs came from the trial-and-error. Now that everything is in place, our operation should prove itself to be quite profitable.”
Main image: Luke St George, Director of Pure Produce Regenerative Farm (image supplied).
Image credits: Shae K Photography
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