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Announced - Soil Health Champions 2022

Soil Health Champions 2022
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Sustainable Agriculture

After our Talkin’ Soil Health Event, our Soil Health guests were invited to attend our “Regional Soil Health Champions” awards for a cocktail dinner at the Saw Tooth Shed in the Old York Mill. For the first time, all seven state NRM regions were represented. A Soil Health Champion is a farmer(s) showing commitment and innovation to improving the health of their soils, sustainable agriculture and natural resource management.

Dr Karl O’Callaghan, CEO, Wheatbelt NRM announced at the evening, “Wheatbelt NRM is proud of their Soil Health Champion program. One of its strengths is that an alumni of past and present champions has evolved, creating a community where diverse perspectives are heard and supported.”

Here are the Regional Soil Health Champions for 2022.

Wheatbelt Soil Health Champion, Rob Hetherington
Nominated by agronomist Logan Smith, who says of Rob “he is a passionate broad acre cropping farmer who specialises in the science around soil health. His knowledge of soil functions and systems is above and beyond that of the everyday farmer. He runs a low input system with extensive use of biological /plant stimulants. He uses mixed species cropping to improve fungi levels and feed his microbes. Earth worms are present across the entire farm, a strong indicator of soil fertility. Rob preachers the science behind how plants grow and how the soil functions. A standout advocate for soil heath!” 

Peel Harvey Soil Health Champion 2022, Blyth Calnan & Greg Hooper
Blyth and Greg improve soil health by reducing farm traffic & soil compaction by using horses, encourage dung beetles, they apply on-farm compost to improve soil health, utilize rotational cell grazing of chickens and cattle to increase production and reduces weeds, and more. They embody the practice of valuing soil on their property; one which when enhanced and managed in turn supports their agricultural enterprise. Their will to implement sustainable farming practices is strong; persistent in the face of many challenges, they continue to run a profitable business, sharing their knowledge while encouraging others to learn from their experiences. 

Northern Agricultural Catchment Council’s Soil Health Champion, Anthony & Geraldine Thomas
Anthony and Geraldine Thomas from Hill Padua Farm in Three Springs have spent the last sixty years improving their farming practice and ensuring a healthy environment for their production system. The Thomas’ have dedicated their lives to improving the health of their property and, in turn, the health and profitability of their sheep herd. While much of the district have spent years clearing up, removing fence lines and extending the land for the movement of bigger and better machinery, Anthony and Geraldine have consistently looked after their land; re-planting natives, putting up fences for smaller grazing projects, reducing their synthetic chemical and fertilizer use and maintaining ground cover, all in the aim to create and maintain healthy soils for healthy feed to grow healthy sheep. 

Rangelands Soil Health Champion, Chris & Jacqueline Henggeler
Nominated by Ellie Summers, who says of Chris “he is a student of eco-system function; his study takes place out there in the field where physics and biology blend in complex and dynamic life-shaping processes”. Chris has studied soil biochemistry and the soil food web presenting the many case studies of his learnings on his two websites and 

South Coast NRM Soil Health Champion, Jolene Daniel
Jolene has been described as ‘a pioneer of new and innovative soil health practices, who is unafraid to try new practices’, trials and cultivars to see what best suits her and her husband’s farm, located in Needilup. Jolene’s philosophy is to aim to restore the health of the natural landscape to provide thriving and productive agricultural and natural ecosystems through regenerative agricultural practices. Jolene goes above and beyond to extend her knowledge to the wider community by working as a project officer with Fitzgerald biosphere group specializing in soil health projects, along with hosting field days and site visits to extend her abundance of knowledge beyond her farm gate. Their system is set up to drive soil health outcomes by trialing summer cover crops, multispecies cover cropping, perennial palatable native fodder species and strip and disc cropping systems. 

South West Catchments Council Soil Health Champion, Jake Ryan
Nominated by Peter Clifton who says of Jake “he is a young innovative commercial producer of vegetables, livestock and eggs with a focus on diversity, soil biological activity, water infiltration and storage and nutrient cycling”. He has hosted a cover crop and strip tillage trial through Horticulture Innovation. 

Perth NRM’s Soil Health Champion, Belinda Taylor
Belinda was nominated by Graham McAlpine, who says “With a background in agriculture science and currently working primarily in the horse industry, Belinda Taylor has seen the need to educate small landholders around the Perth Hills / peri urban areas in soil health, grazing and pasture management practices”. She runs workshops using her own property as a working example of what can be achieved on small acreage. She also works with individuals in property design and management strategies that help to build soil health and reduce the impact of high intensity grazing on the environment. Belinda primarily uses regenerative agricultural practices to improve the soil microbiome and reduce the use of and reliance on chemical inputs. 

The Regional Soil Health Champions were presented trophies by Darren West MLA who represented the Hon Minister Alannah MacTiernan. Previous Soil Health Champions were also invited to the event to support this year’s winners. The Soil Health Champion Awards are supported by funding from the Western Australian Government’s State NRM Program.

Nominations for the 2024 Soil Health Champions will be accepted in 2023.

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