- Modern Australian Agriculture
From wastewater to community asset: Narrabri's groundbreaking Federation Farm
Tuesday 31st July 2018
To tackle the harmful impact of discharged wastewater on the local river system, the Narrabri Shire Council came up with an ingenious solution – a community farm.
Located 14km from Narrabri’s sewerage treatment plant, the 303ha Federation Farm was purchased by the local council in 2001 who then undertook a huge project to upgrade the sewerage scheme and build the infrastructure required. This now allows around 760 megalitres of waste water a year that was once destined for the Murray-Darling, to be used on the farm to irrigate and fertlilise cotton and other crops.
But this inspired community project extends far beyond an environmental contribution to healthier local waterways.
When expressions of interest to manage the farm were advertised, the four schools of the small rural community banded together to take on the farm management and share the profits on a per capita basis.
Over the past 18 years Federation Farm has been in operation, the enterprise has returned more than half a million dollars to the four schools which has been used to fund upgrades to classrooms and computer labs, install interactive whiteboards and purchase education equipment among other much-needed improvements. Located more than 500km north west of Sydney, the small town has found a way to support its own educational needs without having to rely as heavily on community fundraising and ubiquitous cake stalls.
Chairman of the Narrabri Community Education Trust, Dr Warwick Stiller, has had a long-time association with Federation Farm, both as an agricultural researcher and as a parent of children who attend schools in Narrabri.
“One of the unique aspects of Federation Farm is that it truly is a community asset. It’s a tool to improve the environment, it’s a source of employment for locals, it’s a revenue stream for our local schools and it’s an educational resource to give students a firsthand experience of agriculture and growing crops,’ Dr Stiller said.
“We have recently reinvigorated our school students engagement with the farm by starting a biennial schools open day. We are keen to do as much as possible to help the next generation understand what happens on a farm and build trust and pride in agriculture as an industry that supports our region and feeds and clothes our nation.
“The community contribution and support for Federation Farm is outstanding. Besides the volunteer time of the Committee who oversee the initiative, we are supported by reduced costs and discounts from a whole range of businesses and organisations. As an example, we receive reduced cotton-ginning costs from Auscott, discounts on agriculture inputs from Cotton Grower Services and cash support from Monsanto,” Dr Stiller said.
For further comment, please contact: Dr Warwick Stiller 0429 991 522