Sunday, November 02, 2008

the importance of farming

As councillor for Lyster Ward I have always recognised how important the agricultural sector is to our local economy.

Not only is Yarra Ranges the air and water supply of Melbourne, it is Melbourne’s food bowl as well. With a greater emphasis on ‘food miles’ our proximity to Melbourne makes Yarra Ranges well placed for growth in our agricultural sector.

There is a substantial Orchard Fruit sector in Lyster, you may be familiar with the hail netting over the apple orchards in Lysterfield. Some people think the hail netting is unsightly and should be removed, however I have always been supportive of the right to farm. Hail netting means growers use less chemicals, less water, less bird scaring devices, have less crop damage and greater crop yields.

Recently installed hail netting in the Yarra Valley
The issue of Hail Netting in the Yarra Valley came up at council recently (see blog 25 July) and I had no trouble supporting the application even though there was considerable opposition from neighbours. Our farmers are doing it hard, we must do all we can to support them.

Note: 'food miles' is a measure of how far food travels – from paddock to plate, the less travelled, the more sustainable.

The farming sector makes up a huge part of our local economy. Farmers are doing it tough, they are contending with climate change, fuel prices and drought to name a few. Their role is critical, after all they grow our food. I will always support our farmer's right to farm.

The stats and facts on agriculture:
Currently 45,000 hectares of land is used in Yarra Ranges for agricultural practices with an output value of $528 million per annum. The largest land use is for Pastures - Beef/Dairy/Horses/Sheep (80%), followed by Horticulture (19.6%) and Poultry (0.4%).

Horticulture, our highest value agricultural sector is made up of:
Winegrapes (including wine): 46% of land
Nurseries and cut flowers: 24% of land
Orchard fruit: 26% of land
Berries: 5% of land

The shire is currently developing a Green Wedge Management Plan to detail how our Green Wedge areas should be managed.

Green Wedge areas are rural areas which have been identified for permanent protection from urban development so that they can accommodate activities which are needed in rural areas close to Melbourne. Those activities include traditional rural uses such as farming, recreation, national parks, forests and nature reserves, but also other activities which prefer a rural location such as golf courses, tourist facilities, and rural dwellings.

The sorts of things that will be included in the Green Wedge Management Plan are proactive management to prevent infestation by weeds and pests, improvement to land management, enhancement local biodiversity, providing better facilities for horse-riding, cycling and walking. Although there are already many programs and planning controls in place, Council believes that these can be better coordinated, that there are still gaps in what is done, and that green wedge management will benefit from a strategic, overall approach.

As part of the development of the plan an issues paper has been prepared and we’re seeking your comments. Anyone can contribute, if you’d like to know more visit the Shire Website.

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