Farming regeneratively and productively with Eleanor Revell

Woman holding a baby in a macadamia orchard.

Alongside her parents, Andrew and Kim, and brother Jon, Eleanor Revell is taking a more hands on role in the management of her family’s 10,000-tree macadamia farm. Her goal is to farm regeneratively while maintaining good productivity.

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 regen journey: Four years

Industry: Macadamias

Location: Rous, NSW

Regional information: Rous is in the Ballina Shire in Northern NSW and has an average annual rainfall of 1600mm. In 2020/21, the total value of agricultural output in Ballina Shire was $102m. The largest commodity produced was nuts, which accounted for 40.6% of Ballina Shire’s total agricultural output in value terms.

Making the transition

There were challenges for the Revell family from day one. As an established property, the row spacings were already decided and they didn’t get to choose which macadamia varieties to plant.

Eleanor says they are going through a block-by-block process of removing some of the trees.

“We also had issues with the wet weather (in 2022), which meant we lost a lot of crop and we couldn’t harvest for a long time,” she said.

“We also lost all of our compost, which was disappointing.

“We had been working really hard on improving the orchard floor. It’s more important than ever for us to make good choices going forward.”

Woman holding handful of soil.
Eleanor Revell gets her hands dirty on the farm.

Practice changes so far

“We are taking a regenerative approach to everything on the farm,” Eleanor says.

  • Spraying only twice a year, instead of five times.
  • They have spent $60,000 on tree pruning to improve air flow, promote grass coverage and regenerate the tree.
  • Planted insectaries down the middle of the rows.
  • Planted 30 varieties of native flowering shrubs.

“My family grew cotton and wheat when I was growing up… I’d never seen a macadamia tree until we bought this farm. I’m learning so I can make the best decisions for our future.”

Experience on RAMP

When Eleanor saw the program advertised through the Australian Macadamia Society, she knew it would align with her values.

“My favourite part of the program has been the face-to-face sessions, going to other farms, doing farm tours and looking at the workbook,” she said.

“Not everyone in my group is a maca farmer so I’m getting a lot out of that and hearing new ideas.

“I’ve learned a lot about compost through RAMP, the biology of compost and how to change soil biology by using compost.”

Regenerative farming goals

Eleanor says they will eventually plant native flowering shrubs right across the farm.

“I would also love to run some animals through, but it’s a long term goal. We’d need more land because we’re not allowed to have animals in the orchard right before harvest and during harvesting,” she said.

She plans to regenerate along the creek line and continue improving their practices, moving away from systemic fertilisers and just using compost and bio-stimulants.

Best advice for farmers transitioning to regenerative agriculture

“My advice is to question everything that you do on your farm,” Eleanor says.

“For example, when we first bought the property we were using Roundup, because that’s what everyone in the macadamia industry was doing. Then we just asked ourselves, ‘why?’

“Many maca farmers spray their orchards five times a year, but no-one could tell us what would happen if we only sprayed twice. Don’t do things just because everyone else is does it.”

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