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Field-trip fashion

By Robbie Mitchell

If you’re interviewing a farmer in a paddock, its important to wear the right footwear.

Robbie in classic pig-farm attire
Robbie in classic pig-farm attire

Some of us have been traipsing around the country recently, doing just that.

Some of the farmers we interviewed are participants in the Climate Champion program which we run.

Others are interested in carbon farming and we talked to them about this so that we can help the government communicate about the Carbon Farming Initiative.

We’ve been to dairy farms in the lush valleys of the south coast of New South Wales, sunburnt cattle stations in outback Queensland, and vast broadacre properties in the golden wheatbelt of Western Australia.

Each interview has been a special experience.

When I get the chance to see the country through the farmer’s eyes, the romantic in me wants to pack it all in and try my hand at working the land.

But the rose-coloured visions begin to blur if I forget to pack the right shoes for stepping out into a sodden field of sticky, slurping mud or slide through a cattle yard of fresh, steaming cow pats.

Alison and I recently flew down to northern Victoria to interview two farmers who are interested in farming carbon.

This was the first time I had the chance to visit and interview a pig farmer, Tom Smith.

It being winter and there being pigs, I packed my jacket and gumboots. To my surprise, not only was the day warm and the paddock dry, there wasn’t a pig dropping in sight.

Tom has dug a pig-poo pond the size of a soccer field and covered it with non-permeable black plastic to collect the methane from the waste of 14,000 pigs.

He burns off the methane which, if converted to bioenergy, would generate enough electricity to power the whole operation.

More impressively, gumboots (and nose pegs) have become redundant on this pig farm.

The black plastic cover on the pig-poo pond
The black plastic cover on the pig-poo pond traps methane.

 

 

We were cautious when Tom invited us to jump atop his tented pit of poo to conduct our interview.

Though it was fun,  I stepped gingerly, knowing that with one trip I would be, literally, in the poo.

Alison interviews Tom on top of the pig-poo pond.
Alison interviews Tom on top of the pig-poo pond.