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CHAPTER I

Vision Ahead

 

   WE are discovering a new Australia! As yet, few Australianshave seen it. Even those of us who see it every day, who live with it and work forit and think about it continuously, only really see it occasionally in imagination.But we have seen it though only in glimpses; nevertheless, hundreds of Australiansare trying to develop this picture on their own land.

   Occasionally the farmer sees the picture develop suddenly ina good Spring season but it fades again and is not yet permanent. Excessive heatand the absence of rain bleaches the colour from his picture. The stock droop andlose the proud posture of health and the farmer worries; he talks about the weather;he is always talking about the weather--if only it would rain! The picture has gone.It can return and perhaps he will see glimpses of the picture in the moonlight, whenthe harsh lines of reality are softened as the film of soil covers and softens therock formation below. The land scars are hidden in a velvety smoothness.

   Our farmer thinks more about it now. The picture develops andimproves in his imagination. Water! The creeks run clear and strong while ponds ofwater fit snugly into the valleys of his farm like jewels in a landscape of beautyand permanence. Permanence, with trees protecting the land from hot and cold windsalike; trees whose each leaf-fall creates a balance of soil fertility and good pasture,rich dark soil and waving crops.

   Now it is raining! Wonderful, bountiful rain. Heavier now definitelyand grass will be clean and fresh in the morning. It may be the reservoir will fillagain, the big one. Clear, clean water, moving everywhere and flowing into the higherdams; cool, clean and clear. The reservoir being nearly full, it still has plentyof water in reserve, but none of the water will be lost-not 'til the big low damsat the bottom of the paddocks are filled.

   The thin early morning light is harsh on the true scene; itis just a dream. But the hills are the same. They have maintained that smooth, stronglook for thousands of years. There is beauty and promise in the valleys. Despitethe immediate valley so badly eroded, he catches a glimpse of the form and usefulnesshidden in the shape of the land he knows so well, but rarely "sees", ashape smoothed off by the climate that he lives with, a climate that is not alwayskind. Water and trees! That is what is missing--water, trees and good soil.

   Another day has arrived. There is work to be done; but whilethe farmer works he thinks and uses his imagination, for this land will some dayfit the picture that lies ahead and which he is now beginning to see more clearly.

*   *   *

   No doubt the picture of this new Australia (which will developrapidly now, in spite of the effects of drought, flood and bush fire) is differentfor different people.

   I see it as a picture that looks right, and because it looksright it cannot help but be more beautiful. I see a beautiful and permanent landscapewith trees that will hold it in balance, improve the living conditions of stock andhumans and protect and form part of all pasture and crop lands.

   In the picture the land will be cleared, but not as of old orso ruthlessly. Trees will be left in broad belts, or be planted to suit the landform, and in association with water storages they will give a new emphasis to theold and beautiful shapes of our hills and valleys.

   Soil will improve until Australian soil everywhere is richerand deeper than nature has ever provided.

   It is a broad picture I see covering quickly the million squaremiles (the 640,000,000 acres) of our better rainfall areas. It will be a countryon which flood rains will fall as "money" to be banked in the richer soilsand behind the walls of farm dams. It will be a land that fire cannot burn and inwhich drought will reveal only the sound efficiency of our farming and grazing methods.

   I believe the general change about to take place will followthe pattern of older developments. It will move from the coast, continuously pushingfarther inland the stability and the new permanence of its agriculture. There aresuch farms and grazing properties, but they are found usually in climatic conditionswhich are much better agriculturally than our own.

   There is a task to be undertaken. Only the planning and workof our landmen, the farmer who is also a grazier, the grazier who is a good farmer,will produce this new picture and superimpose it on the age-old form of our land.Oils will not make this picture. It is a watercolour. And farm water will mix andspread the pigments of our picture, the delicate balance of many shades of green,the warmer tones of the improving soil dark with stored moisture.

   Since the greatest potential water storage capacity is wherethe rain falls right where we want it on the soil to colour pastures, crops and trees,and since the greatest potential surface water storage is in the valleys of the farmingand grazing properties, the prospects from planned development are immeasurable.

   Though every part of agricultural land development, i.e., theplanning, the day-to-day running and the management is important, to us in Australiano item is more vital than the control, conservation and use of water and our controland conservation of water on each separate farm for use on the farm could be themajor influence on future agricultural development.

   There is no doubt that the Australian landman is seeing a greaterpotential in his own land than he ever saw before. His own importance in the Nation'sdevelopment is becoming much more widely recognised. He has more authorities of theGovernment assisting him and offering advice than ever before.

   He is ever conscious that there is sufficient knowledge, fromaccumulated experience, invention and science, to improve and increase agriculturalproduction to any height to which national development could possibly aspire. Yetthis knowledge is often difficult to apply. It has not been co-ordinated into practicalapplication in the mind of the average landman. It is all too often presented bysegment specialists with insufficient appreciation of basic agriculture. There isa natural tendency for the farmer, bombarded by too specialised knowledge from manyquarters, to become confused, and in consequence he makes false starts as the popularityof one subject or another dominates agricultural publicity and thinking for a time.Is there any wonder that at times he sees it as a fascinating but nearly hopelessjigsaw puzzle?

   All knowledge is based on simple fundamental truths. If thesecan be presented in a reasonable order and relationship to the farmer, he can learnquickly to employ the knowledge to the same extent as if he were master of all thesesciences. However, there is-no authority suitably co-ordinating this new knowledgefrom the various sciences in agriculture to present it to our landmen. The extensionwork of all Agricultural Departments needs rethinking and recasting.

   If there is need for scientists and new research in agriculturalmatters--and it is obvious there is--then these men should be presenting their workto our agricultural teachers so that they in turn can present or teach it practicallyto all the farmers. If some aspect of engineering is necessary or desirable in agriculture,then the engineering aspect should be imparted to all officers of agriculture whocontact farmers. The few engineers involved can do little directly for the greatnumber of farmers, but they can instruct a sufficient number of agricultural officerswho, in their turn, can teach all the farmers they contact.

   Likewise with soil conservation, if it is a necessary part offarming, then every agricultural officer should know the techniques and be able toadvise the farmer. These techniques are very simple and not difficult to learn. Ifthe construction of farm irrigation dams is necessary, then surely all agriculturalofficers should be fully capable of instructing farmers on how to design and buildthem.

   All these matters can be fully covered in teaching for practicaluse in a very simple fashion, and covered, notwithstanding the expert's continuoustendency to preserve his standing by making simple things appear difficult. Or isit that too much has been asked of experts from other fields when agriculture itselfshould have kept the job in its own hands and closer to the farmer.

   It seems to me that the divorcing of some agricultural mattersfrom our Agricultural Departments is a retrograde step that has cost us an unknownbut very great amount of progress, and that the continuance of this division willseriously and still further retard progress.

   No specialist in a segment of agriculture is likely to do asmuch good for agriculture with his specialty as the general agricultural officer.It is this officer's duty to present the matter more practically to farmers and toensure that each item of accumulated knowledge is seen in its proper perspective.If all this were done, then the picture of our development would have pattern andmeaning and not be just a slowly improving yet formless thing. Our efforts must bethe best possible, as nothing less can be tolerated.

   Just as a picture needs a crayon sketch or a line drawing beforethe real colours are applied, so our farm work needs a planned simplicity of performancethat will fix all the sections and pieces together. in orderly and in coordinateddesign.

   The object of this book is to present a basic design for a morestable and permanent agriculture which will fit into the background of our climateand our landscape, and a design which would have manifold applications beyond ourshores. This is not so much a text book as it is a history and a working manual.It is a response to the challenge of our landscape.



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