Potato farmer Gary Crick's sustainable farming focus

Hard yards: Farmer Gary Crick with one of his assistants at his potato farm in Blowhard. Picture: contributed
Hard yards: Farmer Gary Crick with one of his assistants at his potato farm in Blowhard. Picture: contributed

If you've been on the land for four generations already, you want to make sure you keep it going for the next one.

Advances in soil science and a greater recognition of how chemicals can affect pretty much every variable in crops has led many farmers to try out new practices - it's a long-term trial and error process that can span several seasons.

Every farm is different, meaning best practice means different things to every farmer.

In southern Victoria, Blowhard potato farmer Gary Crick is making sure he's using the most sustainable practices so his farm can stay competitive, and to leave a strong legacy for his son.

A McCain supplier, he grows certified seed potatoes, and runs Angus beef and other crops - a McCain media release notes "(c)ertified seed is grown under an Australian national standard which sees the seed, soil and plant material be tested to produce quality and minimise diseases in seed potatoes".

About 10 years ago, he and his wife Jana began using softer organic chemistry for pest control, aiming to encourage more regeneration and sustainability on their paddocks.

It's ended up producing a better potato, he said, though it wasn't without its challenges.

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"You're evolving to try and do things better - you try to take on best practice, and if it suits the way we're doing things, we'll implement what works best for us," he explained.

"You look at successful examples and run what you think will best benefit your family's situation.

"The biggest commitment is all the trials, that takes time and money, and a lot of the trial work is a waste of both, but you keep the bits that work for you and build on the success with trial and error.

"It's a big delay in gratification, and your soil health and wealth is not just from one season into the next, it takes many years to build up what you're looking for in the soil to grow a clean and healthy product that we supply to our markets."

Mr Crick has also added a solar energy system to his supply sheds this year, another element to making his farm more sustainable.

Mr Crick's solar installation. Picture: contributed

Mr Crick's solar installation. Picture: contributed

He said he estimates it will cut on-farm energy costs by about 80 per cent.

"We're hoping to be around for the next generation, and this isn't something you take on if you're only in it for the next five years," he said.

One of the biggest worries, he said, is the proposed Western Victoria Transmission Network Project - a set of high-voltage powerlines running from near Stawell to the edge of Melbourne over what farmers say is the best agricultural land in the state, which is still undergoing its Environmental Effects Statement study.

"The whole community's quite concerned about the proposal for the transmission lines coming through a major potato growing region," he said, adding he supports the lines going underground.

"It's something that needs to be revisited, and take the threat of overhead transmission lines out of this district."

This story 'It takes many years to build up what you're looking for': a potato farmer's sustainable farming focus first appeared on The Courier.