Colin Seis’s journey into Australian agriculture started in Great Britain when his seventeen-year-old, six times great grandfather William, stole a shirt in 1798 and was given free passage to ‘Port Jackson as a convict. After ‘doing his time’ he was granted a small fifty-acre farm in the Hills district which is now northwestern Sydney. This little farm was the start of a farming tradition in Australia that would continue for over 200 years, until today.
Colin’s great grandfather, Nicholas was lured to the ‘Gold Rush’ in Victoria in 1850 and later at the gold fields of Bathurst NSW he finally found enough gold to buy a horse team and wagon, which he used to start a carrying business. In the 1860s he met his wife Catherine who was to have a prominent role in running the farm and initiating the families expansion of merino sheep and wool production.
Each generation implemented good agricultural practices but unknown to them at the time inappropriate sheep grazing and poor wheat growing methods, first with horse teams, then the adoption of industrial agriculture in the 1930s, and finally the use of fertiliser and pesticides during the green agriculture revolution in the 1950s, did severe damage to the family property, its grassland, and soil.
In 1979, a massive bushfire decimated the property, destroying the homestead, farm infrastructure and killing 3000 of Colin’s merino sheep. This was finally the catalyst to change. With no money after the devastating fire, he stopped using fertiliser and pesticides and decided to restore the properties native grassland, by changing the way that the sheep were grazed, and with the development of a new method of sowing crops called ‘pasture cropping’. Colin did not know that this crop growing method was soon to be adopted around the world by over 3000 farmers on many hundreds of thousands of acres.
Agriculture is supposed to be about growing things, but modern agriculture has become very efficient at killing things. A vast array of poisons has been developed during the last seventy years to kill weeds, kill insects, and kill anything else that stops the relentless push of industrial agriculture. Agriculture and is no longer about nurturing the land and its animals.
Ever since the first person planted wheat in Mesopotamia, 10,000 years ago, we have grown crops by killing everything except the planted crop. By mimicking Mother Nature, with the development of pasture cropping, it became possible to restore grassland, soil and ecosystems. This was perhaps the most significant change since the Mesopotamians developed agriculture. Agriculture did not have to destroy farms while growing crops. Agriculture could now restore farms, ecosystems and grasslands by growing crops.
Released 22 October 2022