Laurel Bright had always loved the Northern Rivers region. When she bought 392 acres at Sleepy Hollow in 2010, she didn’t know anything about cattle or farming. But with help from a neighbour and a thirst for knowledge, Laurel is creating a pleasant environment which she loves, and which her seven grandchildren love to visit.
Program: Regenerative Agriculture Mentoring Program (delivered by Southern Cross University through the Regenerative Agriculture Alliance and Farming Together, and made possible by the NSW Government through its Environmental Trust).
Length of time on the RA journey? 13 years
Industry: Beef cattle
Location: Sleepy Hollow, NSW
Regional information: Sleepy Hollow is in the Tweed Shire in Northern NSW and has an average annual rainfall of 1720mm. In 2020/21, the total value of agricultural output in Tweed Shire was $97m. The largest commodity produced was ‘other’ broadacre crops (including sugar cane), which accounted for 36.4% of Tweed Shire’s total agricultural output in value terms.
Making the transition
Laurel, who is in her 70s, says running a working cattle farm has been a “steep learning curve”.
“At first I bought steers, fattened them up, and moved them on,” she said.
“I’m breeding now, so I don’t get rid of the heifers. I’ve got 35 cattle of my own and 35 agisted, so a total of about 70 across the property.
“I really believe in cell grazing and did the Holistic Management course eight years ago (in 2015). It was mind-blowing.
“But moving to regenerative practices, and holistic farming, takes time. I divided the property into large paddocks, and now I’m using electric fences.”
Achievements so far
Laurel has been working with her fencer to put in more fencing so she can better implement cell grazing practices.
She’s also planting more trees, which is important given there is a mix of forest and pastures on her property.
“I’m learning about sustainability and good environmental practices,” she says.
“The program has helped me with my thought processes as I learn more about regenerative agriculture. It’s a continuous learning journey.”
Experience on RAMP
Having worked at a university for most of her career, Laurel was keen to make the most of RAMP and the opportunities it presented.
Her mentor, Glen Chapman, has reinforced holistic farming and management ideas, and helped her to focus on details and take action.
“I’ve been enthusiastic about the program and have been able to get my ideas off the ground,” she says.
“The workshops and face-to-face meetings have been so good. I love hearing specific examples of what other farmers are doing.”
Regenerative farming goals
Finding better ways to manage the weeds on her land is a key goal for Laurel. She doesn’t want to spray but hasn’t yet found an appropriate solution.
“I also know that I have some soil problems,” she says.
“That is my next hurdle. I want to get the cattle moving around on those areas.
“Over 392 acres, there are lots of different types of soils and different ways to manage them.”
Laurel is interested in the concepts of natural sequence farming, and would like to see if she can implement some of those ideas on her farm.
She will continue to refine her method of choosing which calves to keep and which to sell.
Best advice for farmers transitioning to regenerative agriculture
“Start taking a holistic farming approach with your property,” Laurel advises.
“Get exposed to new learnings, new ideas and be challenged.”