The following is a guest post in our climate champion series by Krysteen McElroy
Name: Krysteen McElroy
Location: Padthaway, South Australia
Role: Grows grapes and crops, and runs livestock
Despite running a complex farming system, Krysteen McElroy sees simplicity in sustainability. “Sustainability isn’t about any one thing—it’s about everything. Climate, natural resources, people, finances, communities.”
Krysteen uses three simple questions when she thinks about her own and others’ enterprises: Can we keep doing this? Will we be able to live like we are now in the future if we do? Do we want to improve our situation?
And many farmers echo her sentiment about aiming for more than just the status-quo of sustainability: “We should be looking to improve and leave the place better than we found it.”
Krysteen and her husband Bradley have run a farm in South Australia with his parents for more than 20 years. They grow grapes, broadacre crops (wheat, canola, beans), small seeds; and run sheep, lambs and cattle.
Their aim is to increase the property and region’s productivity and sustainability, at the same time as increasing efficiency. It means they eventually will have more time for other pursuits.
Krysteen believes it’s not so important what people believe about climate change—“We still have to deal with the variability.”
“Farming is a gamble—and climate is the biggest player. You can be holding a full deck of cards and life looks great, then ‘climate’ pulls out that ace that can destroy or make your hand! That’s life!”
“We have to roll with the punches and be as prepared as we can be, then manage our systems for what is predicted to happen.”
Padthaway’s main concern is extremes of temperature, especially when the crops are flowering. There is risk of frost in the spring and heatwaves in summer.
For instance, heatwaves shut down vine growth and can ‘sunburn’ the berries. So when Krysteen hears about researchers trialling drought-resistant or frost-tolerant wheat, “that’s exciting,” she says. “It helps us manage what we can’t control.”
Krysteen and Bradley have also introduced a very successful new irrigation system with sensors and automatic gates which is much more efficient with water, saves them diesel for pumping, and only waters as much as is needed.
They also use careful plant management, compact the bottom of their irrigation channels, and monitor soil moisture to improve how they use water. Krysteen says they’re also improving their sowing methods. And their yields are increasing in line with all of these practices.
For Krysteen, fellow Climate Champion farmers such as like Susan Carn and Andrea Hannemann inspire her. “They are both so passionate about their roles in helping others to understand climate and how it all works. They have a drive and understanding that some of wish we could replicate and share with those in our region.”
Krysteen is a farmer in the Climate Champion program, a group of farmers keen to communicate with other farmers about managing climate risk, and to researchers about what farmers need from research and development. You can also follow her on Twitter.
Don’t forget to head over to the 1MW website for information on taking action against dangerous climate change! We are daughters, mothers, sisters and grandmothers getting on with practical climate action to live better for us and the planet. Join the movement at www.1millionwomen.com.au