Urban spread creates farming challenge

Urban spread creates farming challenge

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Farms versus houses. The rural urban interface in the Tweed region of NSW. Photo Selna Stillman.

Farms versus houses. The rural urban interface in the Tweed region of NSW. Photo Selna Stillman.

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A new survey has looked at how farms and tree changers in regional Australia are dealing with each other.

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While drought's the biggest concern facing Australian farmers, new research has shown they also face other challenges as people from cities make the change to life in the country.

Researchers from the University of Newcastle gathered insights from over 200 landowners and stakeholders in the Tweed and Cabonne shires, in the Northern Rivers and Central West regions of New South Wales, to understand rural land use practices and better ensure land productivity.

"The makeup of regional Australia is rapidly shifting, with an ageing population and an influx of new rural residents who often have limited experience of agriculture," said anthropologist and chief investigator Dr Hedda Askland.

"We have people coming from cities seeking to settle in the country for the lifestyle it offers, which often goes hand-in-hand with owning a small holding or hobby farm.

Read more: Farmers tap city psyche to bridge urban-rural divide

"However, this can pose an issue for long-standing landowners who rely on the productivity of their farms for their livelihood.

"The rising cost of land influenced by those seeking a lifestyle change and the need to support on-farm incomes with other off-farm work or investments are also concerning our farmers, at times deterring the next generation from wanting to carry on the caretaking or locking them out of the market."

Despite the emerging challenges, Dr Askland added that many farmers had embraced alternate options to generate more financial security.

"What was obvious from the interviews we conducted was that farmers continue to be resilient and optimistic about new ways of working," she said.

"Many we spoke to were exploring ways to subsidise their income through related activities, including value-adding to their primary products and using their land for alternative income ventures such as farm stays."

The research was funded by the Department of Primary Industries and will be used to help it DPI better understand the challenges for rural landowners and improve resources for people seeking assistance.

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