Five minutes with a farmer group – FarmLink

| Posted May 04,2021

The Soil CRC’s Communications Manager caught up with Andrew Bulkeley, CEO of FarmLink, for a five-minute chat.  

Tell us about FarmLink

We are a member-led farming systems group, based at the Temora Agricultural Innovation Centre in southern NSW. The Innovation Centre comprises 600 hectares that was formerly a NSW Department of Primary Industries research site.

FarmLink was established in 2004 and has around 800 members. We cover an area of 1.4 million hectares and are one of the larger not-for-profit farmer groups, nationally. We have nine full-time and two part-time staff. The region that FarmLink services stretches from Cowra in the north to Holbrook in the south, Boorowa in the east and Narrandera in the west.

As a not-for-profit, we depend on funding from a variety of sources. At our site we run a broad range of trials across a range of research projects and organisations. We are always seeking to collaborate with organisations that have common objectives and complementary skills. This includes other farming systems groups, the RDCs, DAWE, CRCs, the BoM and CSIRO.

Our members have access to the latest research though our reports, newsletters, website and social media that we distribute throughout the year. FarmLink’s flagship event is an Open Day held in September where we showcase our work and research collaborations.

In June 2021, FarmLink will be hosting the Southern NSW Winter Farming Ball in Temora to celebrate agriculture. This will be our second ball and we expect to have around 400 people in attendance.

What area and type of farming do you cover? 

The footprint for FarmLink’s membership is over 1.4m hectares. This is a predominantly grains and oilseed production area with an increasing level of livestock. There are some well-established sheep enterprises. The region is mostly a medium-high rainfall zone with some lower rainfall areas to our western boundary.  

What type of soil do you have? 

Our soils are primarily red loams. In our eastern boundary they do run into some more granite-based soils and on the perimeters to the north and south we have more grey and sodic clays. Sodicity is an issue for some of our farmers, along with soilborne pathogens and soil acidification.

Why is soil important to your members? 

Soil is the foundation of everything. There is a high level of recognition among our members of the importance of their soil. There has been a massive shift in the past 30 years to value the natural resources and, in particular, our soil.

The whole system has shifted to a more sustainable approach – reduced tillage, changing fertiliser strategies, new equipment technology, etc. Farmers seek both productivity and longevity. They want to maintain their farms and land and they recognise the productivity gains in focusing on overall soil health.

Why did FarmLink become a participant in the Soil CRC? 

As with any collaboration, it is about the shared goals and objectives and mutual benefit. We are aligned with the goal of the Soil CRC: farmer-led research to improve the productivity of Australian agriculture.

Being part of the Soil CRC also opens the possibilities for more engagement and more research that ultimately brings value to our members. It also expands the reach of the Soil CRC into many more farmers’ organisations and families.

What is exciting about working with the Soil CRC? 

The collaboration with other organisations within the Soil CRC has given FarmLink access to other research and researchers that we wouldn’t have otherwise had access to.

In terms of the research coming out of the Soil CRC, we are really excited about the newest project that we are involved in ‘Increasing nutrient efficiency with new organic amendments’ led by Professor Terry Rose of Southern Cross University. This is a new initiative that our members can participate in by being involved in workshops and on-farm trials.

FarmLink’s input into the Soil CRC projects has been primarily in the execution and hands-on aspects. This has incorporated setting up trials, soil testing and arranging field days and events. We have the capability and are seeking opportunities to do more of the strategy and project development to support the Soil CRC in their ambitions.

Projects that FarmLink are involved in:

Smelling soil (2.1.004)

Increasing nutrient efficiency with new organic amendments (3.1.005)

Addressing complex soil constraints (4.2.002)

Building capacity project (6.1.001)