What does a man, who grew up on a huge tobacco farm in Zimbabwe, developed 140,000 acres of African wildlife business for tourists, and helped manage cattle stations in Central Queensland, do?
Become a regenerative agriculturalist, educator and environmentalist, that’s what!
As Aristotle said: ‘We are the environment.’
If we zoom out for a moment, we can get it, says Brian Wehlburg. We all want to be loved and respected. We all have feelings and values. No-one wakes up wanting to destroy their farm or their country. We don’t want to be wrestling with apocalyptic fires, with hard dry-caked paddocks, with dead plants and animals.
We all want a happy life, with clean water in the creeks, carbon in the soil, good food in our bellies and some money in our wallets.
Well, the truth is we have gone from the Bronze Age to Space in a matter of 600 years. So, we have the knowledge. We understand biodiversity – why microbes, fungi and now viruses, matter. But we’ve also confounded ourselves with complexity. So much so, we can’t really see the wood from the trees. So, we mostly only focus on making money.
And there’s nothing wrong with that says Brian. But if we only do one thing, we end up ignoring the complexity of reality and make bad choices. In this way we are likely to end up depleting our resources, destroying our opportunities and turning what we loved into a dust.
Whether in a village hall, on a tree stump, or sitting on a tombstone in a cemetery, these are some of the opening thoughts that Brian Wehlburg shares in his Inside Outside Management world.
And he does so now, with an ever-growing number of farmers, agriculturalists, students, environmentalists, families and just plain interested and curious folk. And now he is backed by a lifetime of experience in diverse environments and some excellent Board Member appointments.
Brian often references, ‘It’s not the cow but the how’. Telling us that hard-hoofed animals and ruminants, matter! Reminding us how ruminants and plants evolved together. Think megafauna and their big stomachs and plants. Think 60 billion bison roaming the huge North American plains.
He explains how the guts of ruminants break down the carbon in plants. In their stomachs the anaerobic conditions produce methane. Once airborne, the gas returns to earth in a virtuous circle to feed the plants and once again enriches the soil with carbon. A cycle that has been going on ever since animals and plants evolved together on the planet.
The ruminants’ hard hoofs also break up the soil’s crust, loosening it into a fluffy covering to receive raindrops and seed. But only if you keep the animals moving. Continuous hoof action compacts the ground and leads to dead soil. Constantly moving stock, bunched together, mimics the natural herds that stayed in packs avoiding or hunting predators, and was always on the move.
Envisage a bush track, the compacted path to the Hills Hoist, or the hard sand on the beach from the plodder, as opposed to the loose sand from the jogger, and you get the picture.
In Murwillumbah, Northern NSW, Brian tells us of a farmer who moves large herds of cows regularly. Their dung and urine enrich the soil. They eat or trample the weeds and pasture. On this particular property this stock management has built up the soil’s carbon content from a former 4% to a current 14%. Many cropping soils have only 1% carbon.
Brian also shares the story of Stephen Scholfield, who with his family manages Gracemere Farmstead near Lismore NSW. His nine- and ten-year-old daughters show visitors around their farm. They take you to where the goats are eating the blackberries and lantana. To the pigs enriching the soil, the ducks enjoying the creek and the donkeys that keep the foxes away, letting the chickens roam free.
This family uses its animals to create a biodiverse farm and a biodiverse environment. They use regenerative farm practices to restore biodiversity and store atmospheric carbon in the soil to reduce climate change. And even the primary school age girls already know the rudiments of business, and how many eggs etc. they are producing.
But what have Brian Wehlburg and BEATS in common? Other than their passion for biodiversity? A love of the land and all life, not just that which is endangered or threatened. And a vision to ‘zoom out’, and above all take an active role in listening to the planet, to improve it, not destroy it.
‘We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.’ Aldo Leopold
Brian is teaching Allan Savory’s Holistic Management in Bathurst NSW, Bega NSW, Lismore NSW, Merriwa NSW, Maitland NSW, Gosford NSW, Koyuga VIC, Yarck VIC, Bairnsdale VIC, Warragul VIC, Albany WA, Muresk Ins. WA. See more here… https://www.insideoutsidemgt.com.au/about-us/who-we-are