Federal MPs and senators from across the political spectrum travelled to leading farm-forestry operation Jigsaw Farms in south-western Victoria earlier in July to learn about the benefits of growing timber production trees on traditional farming enterprises.
The Australian Forest Products Association organised the tour with support from the National Farmers Federation and toured Mark Wootton and Eve Kantor’s property, incorporating eucalypt tree production alongside a traditional red meat operation.
Jigsaw Farms, 15 km north of Hamilton, is a family property that integrates forestry, carbon and indigenous plantings with high-productivity grazing on a large scale.
The mixed grazing operation consists of a fine wool sheep flock, a prime lamb operation and an Angus/Poll Hereford breeding program.
About 600 hectares have been planted to hardwood timbers, mainly spotted gum (Corymbia maculata).
The underlying focus of Jigsaw Farms is to integrate a profitable, highly productive stock and agroforestry operation while adhering to environmental guidelines, based on the understanding that looking after developing the non-pasture areas of the farm assists productivity.
The farms run over 50,000 dry sheep equivalents (DSEs) in a high-input production system.
The farms also have over 320 ha of biodiversity and agroforestry plantations that act as a carbon sink, among other things.
These farming practices demonstrate ways to lessen the impact of climate change and have resulted in a more adaptative and resilient farming system.
The enterprise comprises six properties totalling 3378 hectares, with environmental works and agroforestry on 18% of the land area.
Large, connected tracts of revegetated waterways, farm forests and wetlands play a vital role alongside 20,000 adult sheep and 20,000 lambs run on high-input pastures.
Parliamentarians visiting Jigsaw Farms included representatives from the Liberal, Labor, National and Greens parties who witnessed the benefits growing production trees on farms can provide – including improving land and soil quality, providing shelter for stock, helping farm operations work toward carbon neutrality, and course diversifying income through the sale of the timber once harvested.
AFPA regards the increased uptake of farm forestry as critical in helping Australia achieve sovereign capability in timber and wood fibre, along with sustainable plantation expansion and continued sustainable native forestry operations.
The visiting parliamentarians included: Dan Tehan (Liberal MP for Wannon), Raff Ciccone (Labor Senator for Victoria), Meryl Swanson (Labor MP for Paterson), Andrew McLachlan (Liberal Senator for South Australia), Janet Rice (Greens Senator for Victoria), Linda White (Labor Senator for Victoria), Perin Davey (Nationals Senator for NSW).
AFPA CEO Joel Fitzgibbon, deputy CEO Natasa Sikman, NFF vice-president David Jochinke and NFF natural resource manager Warwick Ragg were notable attendees.