Graham Strong is a farmer in the Birrego district, west of Wagga Wagga. In the late 1980s, the rise of salty watertables killed a wide area of trees beside the Strontian Road near Arcadia and Oakvale, two farms owned by the Strong family.
To deal with escalating salinity and other ecological problems in the Birrego area, local farmers formed the Strontian Road Landcare Group. During Landcare meetings, Graham and his family learned much about natural systems and began to think differently about how they farmed. They replanted wide areas to native vegetation and found ways to integrate production into local patterns of nature.
Native plants harbour many insects and small birds. To swiftly revegetate large areas, Graham harvested tens of thousands of wattle seeds from local roadsides and sowed them across paddocks with the same broadacre seeding equipment he uses to plant cereal crops. Only five years after starting the revegetation work, predatory insects living amid the growing expanses of native vegetation halved the volume of expensive insecticides the Strong family needed to stop pest insect populations damaging pastures and crops.
As well as regenerating Arcadia and Oakvale, Graham helped found Danceplant, a community group helping farmers across the Wagga Wagga region plant native species.
Graham Strong walks through an area planted to old man saltbush, a hardy pasture species, beside Strontian Road. In the background are the remains of eucalypts killed by rising salty groundwater in the late 1980s.
Photo: George Main.
Graham Strong at work on Arcadia.
Photo courtesy: Graham Strong.