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Lotus Creek beef graziers Sue and Simon Gedda create sustainable farming to counter climate change

By Melanie Groves, Monday October 19, 2020 - 07:14 EDT
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Sue and Simon Gedda are building a more environmentally friendly way of grazing cattle. - ABC

When Sue Gedda had to evacuate from rising floodwaters at her central Queensland cattle property in 2017, it was a traumatising and unexpected event.

She said flooding from Cyclone Debbie "brought the level of the creek up 4.5 metres higher than previous records, and 40 centimetres into the upper level of our highset house".

"It was a wake-up call. It shocked me into thinking much harder about climate change and our role within it, and it formed what I call my climate conscience," she said.

Like many others, Sue and her husband Simon are worried about the effects of climate change, but they also face a personal conflict with regards to the environmental impact of their own business.

"I have an income from beef production, which I am very grateful for, but, on the other hand, I have a desire to protect the local ecological biodiversity," she said.

But rather than abandon hope and the industry, the couple is working to reconcile their concerns and build a more sustainable business.

Personal conflict

From the Gedda's cattle station at Lotus Creek in central Queensland, Sue is in close contact with the environment every day and sees firsthand the impact grazing cattle can have.

"[Some erosion] is inescapable when you run hard-hooved animals on dry ground," Ms Gedda said.

"[Erosion] creates run-off, silt run-off, and of course this impacts local waterways and ultimately the Great Barrier Reef."

Mr Gedda, who has been on Markwell Station for 50 years, says his education into regenerative agriculture started 30 years ago.

While broadscale tree clearing was encouraged by government in the 1970s, Mr Gedda recalled a pivotal moment that changed his thinking.

"We were pulling some virgin timber with dozers and chain and a koala came down with a tree," he said.

"Fortunately, the koala wasn't injured but I then started to think more deeply about what we do to our country and [the] responsibility we have to the land."

Changing practices

For the past three decades, the Geddas have been changing their practices to reduce their impact on the environment, local habitat and wildlife.

"I learnt three new words; conservation, biodiversity and sustainability," Mr Gedda said.

The Geddas focus on regenerative agriculture, keeping stock rates low to prevent over-grazing and ensuring groundcover to protect the soil.

"In a lot of country that we called our secondary country, I was pulling down the trees in the idea that the country was going to be more productive," Mr Gedda said.

"We stopped doing that about 20 years ago.

"I'm not sure if we're making any more income by doing that, but we're certainly saving a lot of money by not having to maintain it."

The Geddas said creating wildlife corridors through their property had encouraged an explosion of birdlife.

"If you are looking after your land, you're at the same time looking after your bank balance … cattle will thrive, you'll have good pregnancy rates, and, ultimately, your business will do well," Ms Gedda said.

"The only thing we can do is our best, and find as many ways as possible to become more sustainable, protect what we have and try to leave it in a better state than we found it."

Conflict fuelling art

Ms Gedda's internal conflict has made its way into her art, culminating in the development of an abstract sculpture trail on the property.

Recently, she held an exhibition of her work and invited people to see the physical manifestation of her thoughts on the conflict between beef production and environmental protection.

The art is created using found objects from the beef industry, as well as organic objects from around the property.

"I bring them together in contrast, and create sculptures that have different layers of meaning that speak of things like water resource protection, the fragility of the environment and tree clearing," she said.

"I was thrilled we had 60 people come on the day, and they obviously got something out of it and went away and perhaps thought a little more deeply about those issues."


© ABC 2020

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