Stories: On the Farm
Fleur Anderson - Theodore, QLD, Australia
A pioneer spirit, a promise to the next generation
Excerpt from Fleur Anderson’s presentation to a Cotton LEADS™ Partner Event, January 2015
My name is Fleur Anderson, and I am a cotton farmer from Australia. I live on a family cotton farm in a small farming community in the Dawson Valley in central Queensland. The village I live in has a population of about 500 people.
My husband Kirk and I live on our family property “Wilcannia,” a farm on the irrigation scheme fed by the Dawson River. Wilcannia is an Aboriginal word meaning “People of the River.” We farm alongside Kirk’s brother and his wife, mother and father, and we have two children.
I grew up on my family property “Yaraandoo,” on the Darling Downs in Queensland and have lived on a cotton farm my whole life. Yaraandoo is an Aboriginal word meaning “Under the Southern Cross.” I am grateful for the opportunity to be raised in an agricultural family where my backyard is my classroom. The line between family and work has never been clear, and I have been involved in the farming operation in some way from my earliest memories. Family is at the core of everything we do – we have four generations all living and working together.
Before “sustainability” was a word, my grandfather was implementing new practices. He and my dad were part of the early adopters of “Zero Till” farming, a practice designed to minimise disturbance to the soil, which helps retain moisture, reduce the need for water and keep carbon in the soil.
As the sustainability concept evolved, I have often drawn on this pioneering spirit that demonstrated to me, even as a child, the courage to keep looking to the future and be bold in our commitments to farm as part of the big picture, and our family’s legacy.
We are currently preparing our final farm improvements for a myBMP Audit during the coming winter. myBMP is our industry’s Best Management Practices program, an initiative that helps provide assurances to our communities, environmental groups and supply chain partners that we are operating our farms at a certain high standard.
The myBMP program includes modules in areas of Human Resources, Waste Management, Crop Nutrition and Energy Use and sets a number of benchmarks, scaled into three tiers. We are currently preparing for our Level 2 Audit and accreditation. Even though we are a small-scale family farm, we still believe it is important to allocate resources to meeting this standard.
A large part of what drives us to take our sustainability seriously is our children. The farm was my playground and classroom growing up, and it’s where I learned about the world – it’s the same for my children. Sustainability to us is handing on a farm to its next custodians (whether they be our family or otherwise) in better condition than when we received it.
We think this is achievable by:
- Constantly improving the health of our soils and waterways through good management and adopting proven technologies
- Improving the infrastructure on-farm to continually improve its efficiency
- Increasing our profitability and business management so we can manage climate variability and extreme weather events
To reduce our use of fertilisers and improve soil health, we retain trash from our ginning process and along with other organic waste, create a compost for our soils. 100% of the water used on our farm is reticulated back into on-farm storages and channels to recycle for subsequent irrigations. These two recycling initiatives are creating shared value for our enterprise, the local community and the natural environment.
It’s important to acknowledge the role of the cotton producer, and we are beaming with pride that we can stand up and say that we produce cotton of a standard to be part of the Cotton LEADS™ program – amongst the most sustainable and responsibly grown cotton in the world.