From shadow to farm: New shared knowledge program launches

Aspiring farmers can now experience life on the land through a new program that allows experienced farmers to share their knowledge.
Kyneton tree-changer Melissa Connors introduced the Macedon Ranges to This Farm Needs a Farmer in 2018 and is about to officially launch a new Shadow Farming initiative to the program.
“Through shadow farming, tree-changers can get onto a farm and people can work alongside a farmer in whatever area they are interested in – maybe it’s livestock, growing veggies or fencing – each farmer has a specialty,” Melissa said.
“Not only do they get experience but the farmer gets another set of hands for their work. It’s an opportunity for people new to farming to learn in real time and understand real farm problems.
“Unless you know a farmer it’s very difficult for people to get access to time on a farm with someone who has a strong background in a field they are interested in. This breaks down that barrier.”
Facing some of those barriers himself, Hesket’s Mike Boudrie is one of three farmers to open up his property to those seeking to learn new skills through the Shadow Farm initiative.
Mike was one of the first tree-changers to access This Farm Needs a Farmer and has since established his farm with cattle, chooks and market gardens.
“It’s a completely new start for a lot of people moving out to regional or rural areas. It is hard enough to have a big move, but then having to worry about how to get started with a farm and where to source things makes it more challenging,” he said.
Like many moving to the area from Melbourne, Mike wanted to get back to the country lifestyle he knew growing up and raise his family in a regional area. Establishing a farm was part of that desire.
“We wanted to run cattle but we didn’t really know how to where to start,” he said.
“There was no way of sourcing the information that we needed – short of knocking on people’s doors. Melissa was able to set me up with good reliable people willing to help. It has really been a valuable experience and shadow farming takes it a step further.”
The This Farm Needs a Farmer concept saw Melissa Connors named the 2018 Victorian AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award winner and the program has only grown since.
The Shadow Farming program will be officially launched at this year’s Field Day, which will take place in Bendigo on April 11, as This Farm Needs a Farmer partners with the Victorian Farmers Market Association.
The launch will form part of the Easter Festival weekend, which is celebrating its 150th year this year as the VFMA celebrates its 10th year.
Details on the Shadow Farming initiative can be found online, at: www.thisfarmneedsafarmer.com.au

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