Joining the economy and the environment

MIG Development Officer Erin Hasson with Mingenew farmer Darrin Lee who started farming in the district after a career as a banker

Darrin Lee was a career banker in a past life but together with wife Steph, a remote-area nursing practitioner, her father and brother, he's now farming on 'Malara', a 5,000-hectare property 14 km east of Mingenew.

Mr Lee's third crop featured the district reliable mix of wheat, barley, lupins and canola. He says becoming a member of the Mingenew-Irwin Group (MIG), after making a late start to farming, has helped a lot.

MIG President Chris Gillam believes the group benefits from a great breadth of talent and diversity of experience from members like Mr Lee.

The Mingenew-Irwin Group (MIG) was born in 1994 as a landcare initiative and has evolved to a cutting-edge cropping group, integrating production and landcare in the interest of economic and environmental sustainability.

The research and development program has grown to more than 100 field trials on everything from stubborn herbicide resistance on non-wetting sandy soils to new variety tests, and field days now draw in excess of 350 people.

A major current initiative, supported by growers and the Federal Government through the GRDC, is the (voluntary) introduction of Environmental Management Systems (EMS) to participating farms.

As the Mingenew Land Conservation District Committee (LCDC) representative on MIG, Jon Holmes, not surprisingly, sees ongoing landcare as very important. "We want sustainable agriculture so future generations can enjoy the land in good condition. The EMS project being conducted by our group will play a big part in helping achieve that," he said.

Mr Gillam said EMS "offers the ultimate in certifiable management systems and allows growers to demonstrate the impact graingrowing has on the environment and how they are responsibly dealing with it".

"Existing domestic and export markets for Australian grain could be more secure and possibly expanded, with the addition of proven environmental management systems."

To service the evolving needs of the dynamic group, MIG Senior Development Officer Cameron Weeks now has an assistant, Muresk agribusiness graduate Erin Hasson.

Mr Weeks said that MIG aimed to work in partnership with government agencies, plus private enterprise, to ensure that the latest and most relevant in farming system research was carried out in the Mingenew and Irwin Shires.

"We believe the work we do has relevance to a much larger area as well and, as such, we'll be inviting widespread membership," he said.