Carnar­von Gorge’s Khory Han­cock’s film looks at drought

Central and North Rural Weekly - - FRONT PAGE - KIRILI LAMB kirili.lamb@ru­ral­

A DRY Hope is the lat­est film ven­ture of En­vi­ron­men­tal Cowboy Khory Han­cock.

The doc­u­men­tary ex­plores the sto­ries and suc­cesses of farmers across NSW and Queens­land that are us­ing re­gen­er­a­tive farm­ing prac­tices.

Grow­ing up on a 30,000-acre cat­tle sta­tion to the west of Carnar­von Gorge gave Mr Han­cock a strong un­der­stand­ing of the prac­ti­cal­i­ties of farm­ing and he is able to com­bine that with a dual de­gree in en­vi­ron­men­tal sci­ence and en­vi­ron­men­tal plan­ning.

A Dry Hope ex­plores the ideas around farm­ing against drought, ex­plor­ing prac­tices that can make prop­er­ties more re­sis­tant to the ef­fects of drought con­di­tions.

“I wanted to do a film project on some of the longert­erm so­lu­tions, be­cause I saw that a lot of peo­ple are blam­ing the gov­ern­ment and sayin’ ‘we need more fund­ing from the gov­ern­ment’ and so on,” Mr Han­cock said.

“The gov­ern­ment is not go­ing to help, longer term, with any of these so­lu­tions.

“Cli­mate change and droughts are go­ing to in­crease and in­crease in fre­quency and in­ten­sity, win­ter rain­fall is pre­dicted to de­cline dra­mat­i­cally in the eastern coastal area of Aus­tralia in the next decade by

15 per cent, evap­o­ra­tion rates are pre­dicted to in­crease an­other 20 per cent in the next 10-20 years and you’ve also got heat­waves com­ing through.

“We need to look at longer-term strat­egy and not just fi­nan­cial so­lu­tions.”

He said in the process of trav­el­ling for the film and other work, he no­ticed the clear out­comes for farmers that en­gaged with re­gen­er­a­tive farm­ing.

“Trav­el­ling, I could clearly see the dif­fer­ent man­age­ment regimes and the im­pact that has on the land, sheep and cat­tle graz­ing prac­tices from one prop­erty to the next and I al­ways won­dered why,” he said.

“And it came down to man­age­ment prac­tices”

An in­tro­duc­tion to David Ward, a Dubbo-based agron­o­mist spe­cial­is­ing in re­gen­er­a­tive farm­ing prac­tice, was a chang­ing point and the two have col­lab­o­rated to present a range of farmers that have adopted new ap­proaches and are show­ing re­sults in terms of on-farm drought re­silience and im­proved prod­uct and prof­itabil­ity.

It is these sto­ries that com­prise the yet-to-befin­ished film, which re­quires com­ple­tion fund­ing.

“I didn’t ex­pect to get the sto­ries I saw out there: this is a much big­ger film project than I orig­i­nally thought,” Mr Han­cock said.

The film in­cludes al­ter­nate ap­proaches to pas­ture de­vel­op­ment, man­age­ment of creek sys­tems, soil car­bon de­vel­op­ment and a whole raft of holis­tic land man­age­ment prac­tices.

Mr Han­cock re­ferred to one Dubbo prop­erty owned by Eric Har­vey, which had shown a dra­matic trans­for­ma­tion due to tran­si­tion from tra­di­tional to re­gen­er­a­tive prac­tice and which was be­ing mon­i­tored by CSIRO.

“It was quite amaz­ing, the grass that I saw,” he said.

“Over a two or three-year

pe­riod, the soil car­bon in­creased, the nu­tri­ent level in­creased.

“He’s got sheep there; he did an anal­y­sis on wool qual­i­ties and strength, that all in­creased. So his agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tiv­ity, his eco­log­i­cal pro­duc­tiv­ity was all in­creas­ing, de­spite the drought.

“And as all this in­creased, the rain­fall was de­creas­ing.”


Mr Han­cock spoke to Ru­ral Weekly just af­ter de­liv­er­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion on biochar and seaweed farm­ing for meth­ane re­duc­tion at the Aus­tralia and New Zealand Biochar Con­fer­ence on the Gold Coast.

“Although I am a sci­en­tist, I come and give an in­dus­try per­spec­tive – it’s gen­er­ally well-re­ceived by try­ing to bridge the gap be­tween in­dus­try and sci­ence,” he said.

He has been in­volved in car­bon as­sess­ments on some of Aus­tralia’s largest land restora­tion projects, tak­ing in sites from Co­bar in NSW to Win­ton in Queens­land.

“Pri­mar­ily I work on car­bon farm­ing method­olo­gies and ways we can move the in­dus­try for­ward, with­out re­ly­ing on gov­ern­ment fund­ing for it, so that all these method­olo­gies like soil car­bon can be­come more vi­able,” he said.

“Cur­rently the gov­ern­ment is reg­u­lat­ing price on that, so we need to swap to an international trad­ing scheme and make it com­pet­i­tive.”

Mr Han­cock feels it is vi­tal we de­velop car­bon farm­ing as a re­gen­er­a­tive prac­tice for both soil and cli­mate, in a way that sup­ports vi­a­bil­ity and prof­itabil­ity for agri­cul­tural in­dus­tries.

“Car­bon farm­ing is a way to draw down that car­bon diox­ide that is in the at­mos­phere caus­ing cli­mate change and to store it safely in our forests, our oceans and our soils and

to make it prof­itable for our farmers by cre­at­ing an in­dus­try around that,” he said.

His pre­sen­ta­tion fo­cused around the po­ten­tial­ity of biochar in car­bon farm­ing and re­gen­er­a­tive farm­ing and of “blue car­bon”.


Mr Han­cock is one of Aus­tralia’s pi­o­neers in “blue

car­bon”, or seaweed farm­ing.

He said Meat and Live­stock Aus­tralia had a tar­get in place to be­come car­bon neu­tral by 2030 and was en­gaged with tri­als with CSIRO on feed lots.

“One of the ways they are look­ing at do­ing that is in­tro­duc­ing seaweed into the cat­tle diet,” he said.

“It’s very ex­cit­ing – one of those par­tic­u­lar species of

seaweed, if you in­tro­duce

2 per cent into their diet, it elim­i­nates their meth­ane emis­sions by 99 per cent.”

In re­sponse to that po­ten­tial, Mr Han­cock is in the process of de­vel­op­ing a start-up, po­ten­tially with US seaweed farm­ing ex­pert Brian von Herzen, around cre­at­ing “blue car­bon” farms that have a triple ac­tion in se­ques­ter­ing

❝We need to look at longer-term strat­egy and not just fi­nan­cial so­lu­tions. — Khory Han­cock

car­bon in sea beds, de­liv­er­ing cooler wa­ter from lower ar­eas of the sea to the sur­face and pro­vid­ing fod­der to ser­vice a lower-meth­ane-emit­ting cat­tle in­dus­try.

“It has mul­ti­ple ben­e­fits and just one of them is re­duc­ing meth­ane emis­sion through cat­tle feed so that you’ve ba­si­cally got a green prod­uct,” he said.


EN­VI­RON­MEN­TAL COWBOY: Khory Han­cock ex­plores the power of re­gen­er­a­tive farm­ing through the doc­u­men­tary film project A Dry Hope.


ON SCREEN: Khory Han­cock film­ing with the Con­scious Farmer Derek Blom­feld on his Liver­pool Plains sta­tion, Colorado.

A se­verely de­graded gully on Colorado sta­tion.

A healthy gully, terra-formed by cows and cov­ered with life on Colorado sta­tion.


EN­VI­RON­MEN­TAL COWBOY: Khory Han­cock ex­plores the power of re­gen­er­a­tive farm­ing through doc­u­men­tary film project A Dry Hope.

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