Ploughing the way for young farmers
Nat Wiseman Nat Wiseman started his university career studying nanoscience, pursuing an interest in artificial photosynthesis and the possibility of designing solar panels that act like the leaves of plants. But towards the end of his Bachelor of Science he realised that he was more interested in social and environmental issues rather than working in a laboratory – so he started a degree in planning, focusing on urban agriculture and land-use policy.
Reflecting on his time at the University of Adelaide, Nat says it opened up a whole world of ideas – through the people he met to the wide range of resources in the library.
“This led to a real awakening for me and ignited my passion in trying to address the environmental and social issues I learned about,” he says.
For the past five years Nat has worked part-time in the Department of Geography, Environment and Population with Dr Douglas Bardsley, looking at the impacts of climate change and adaption options for Indigenous groups in the APY lands in the far north-west corner of SA. He has also developed his skills in farming and urban agriculture by completing a Permaculture Design Certificate at the Food Forest in Gawler and being active in local permaculture and sustainability groups.
“It has been very inspiring for me to get more involved in permaculture at the grassroots level, and has been a great antidote to the ‘paralysis by analysis’ that sometimes comes from too much reading on environmental/social crises,” says Nat.
In 2012 Nat co-founded the semi-commercial Wagtail Urban Farm with friends on a 180-square metre block at suburban Mitchell Park, producing a ute load of vegetables each week and selling them to markets and the local community.
“That experience convinced me that small-scale farming was possible and productive, but I knew that I needed to scale up in order to make a livelihood from it,” says Nat.
So, Nat and others launched a crowdfunding campaign which raised $17,000 to start Village Greens of Willunga Creek at the Aldinga Arts Eco Village. From a fledgling business in 2014, they now grow a half-acre of mixed organic vegetables, selling to the local community as well as city customers and restaurants.
Nat and the farm team also formed a loose collective of young market gardeners on the Fleurieu Peninsula, sharing tools, information and meeting up for shared dinners. Collaboration, not competition, is the aim. Nat is passionate about the young farmers’ movement but says they face real challenges in Australia and all over the world.
“There are less and less farmers to learn the skills from. Urban development pressures are increasing the price of good farmland – and paving over it – and the average age of Australian farmers is approaching 60,” he says.
“I hope my work, as well as the work of many other young farmers around the country, can show that it is possible to be a successful young farmer despite the odds, and provide a model for others.”
Nat is keen to develop a young farmer’s network and is also looking at setting up a regional Fleurieu food hub to source a whole range of fresh food produce from farmers.
“We need production by the masses, not mass production, if farming is going to have a sustainable future.”
Green thumbs on campus
Ecoversity – the University of Adelaide’s sustainability engagement program – has helped establish two edible gardens at the North Terrace and Waite campuses. The gardens were made possible through start-up funding from Ecoversity’s Green Project Fund and passionate staff and students keen to grow food on campus, share skills and meet like-minded people.
Find out more: www.adelaide.edu.au/ecoversity/action/ediblegarden
Story by Genevieve Sanchez