A FOURTH-GENERATION farmer has taken out the Bob Hawke Landcare Award for his agroforest project and efforts to revegetate a creek running through his property.
Andrew Stewart runs a 575-arce sheep farm near Deans March, foothills of southern Victoria's Otway Ranges.
Historic land clearing had reduced the property's woody vegetation to just three percent, and as a result the farm suffered from ecological decline and water-logged areas.
"We decided we should make a whole-of-farm plan, so we did that in the early 90s," Mr Stewart said.
He divided the property into land class sub-divisions and fenced along the boundaries, fenced out remnant vegetation, double fenced along creek lines and planted plantations to develop wildlife corridors
"We formed a web of connected trees throughout the property to provide wind protection, reduce exposure to stock and address the salinity," Mr Stewart said.
"We've established about 50,000 trees and shrubs over the last 30 years, taken the property from three per cent woody vegetation to 18 per cent.
"The interesting thing is it hasn't reduced our agricultural production."
The agroforest has not only addressed environmental issues and enhanced agricultural productivity, it's provided another revenue stream when the trees are harvested.
Mr Stewart was also recognised for his work restoring the Yan Yan Gurk creek, forming a Landcare group in the early 90s and fencing off 18kms to revegetate the waterfront.
"Sustainable agriculture to me is about building better ecological functionality in our farming systems," Mr Stewart said.
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud Mr Stewart's commitment to revitalising the Yan Yan Gurt Creek Catchment was inspiring.
"This is in addition to his work bringing more than 5000 people to his farm to show what is possible and educate them about sustainable land management practices," Mr Littleproud said.
"It is this combination of on-ground results and ability to bring the community together that truly demonstrates the Landcare ethos and makes Mr Stewart a worthy winner of this important award."
NSW farmers Justin and Lorroi Kirkby took out the Landcare Farming Award.
The Kirkby's project focuses on the regeneration and biology of the soil, healthy plants, and increasing groundcover to effectively use available rainfall.
The couple employs a combination of sustainable agriculture methods to maintain output including non-inversion deep tillage on scalded areas, and sub-tropical grasses and legumes.
The Innovation in Agriculture Land Management Award went to Michael Nicols from Redbank Farm in Tasmania.
A mixed crop-and-vegetable farmer, Mr Nicols employs state-of-the-art agricultural practices including grid soil sampling, satellite Normalised Difference Vegetation Index and yield mapping to ensure maximum sustainable output and soil regeneration.
Recipients are awarded a $50,000 prize package to further develop their knowledge and enable an even stronger contribution to Landcare.