Active grass-roots approach urged

John King. Photo by Sally Rae.
John King. Photo by Sally Rae.

The only people who should be making decisions about the land are the people managing it.

That is the belief of John King, a certified holistic management educator who brings a "whole systems" approach to farming businesses.

Mr King was guest speaker at a sustainable farm-management workshop hosted by the Under the Kakanuis Women in Farming Group at Papakaio last week.

He runs a course in sustainable farm management through the Biological Husbandry Unit Organic Training College at Lincoln University and also runs his own training courses.

The best part of the job was heading to small, rural areas, such as Papakaio, to talk to people who were "passionate about doing something different".

It was about using the environment to lower farm production costs and lift farm profitability, helping farmers "get ahead".

Raised on a farm near Winton, Mr King has a master' degree in agricultural science from Lincoln University.

He had travelled extensively and spent times in parts of the world where farming was "difficult".

What he saw in those areas was people developing the courage to make some changes and then seeing the response of that.

He challenged those attending the workshop on how to go about generating the courage to "try something different".

That included the importance of the people with whom you surrounded yourself. He encouraged sticking together "as a group" and supporting each other.

Observations were very important and also knowing when to follow through on those observations.

He urged farmers to look at their own properties - "How many farmers get out and walk their paddocks?" - saying it was about getting back to some common sense.

"We've got so hyped up on how we should be performing as farming professionals ... we're forgetting the basics. We need to be able to get back to that real common-sense stuff, about being local and focusing on what's on your patch of land," he said.

A skill that had been lost was the ability "to look at the landscape and understand what it's telling us".

By reaching for the shelf, people had disconnected from what they were actually doing, he said.

He was keen to hold further courses in North Otago.