In April this year KSCA's first project got off the ground when several of us visited Marloo, a property owned by Stuart Andrews that will be the site of KSCA's landed art residency. Stuart’s father Peter pioneering Natural Sequence Farming at the famous Tarwyn Park, a system of agriculture and hydrology that involves generating soil and using weeds to hold water and drought-proof the land. Natural Sequence Farming is a significant Australian agricultural innovation that has done much to shift thinking around land stewardship, even if the wider farming community has been slow to embrace its principles. Stuart is carrying on his father’s work, restoring the highly degraded Marloo using and developing his father’s techniques.
Over the next year, Gilbert Grace will be growing a crop of non-THC hemp at Marloo, working closely with Stuart (who is already using "repair plants" to regenerate the property's soils) and hemp entrepreneur Klara Marosszeky of the Australian Hemp Masonry Company. Hemp is a miracle plant with countless applications across many industries, including construction, agriculture, textiles, food and manufacturing, yet it is highly regulated and totally misunderstood. Grace's land art residency is all about showcasing hemp's remarkable properties as a sustainable material, and suggesting a technology that could replace the cement manufacturing that until recently was the dominant industry in Kandos.
Gilbert, Diego, Alex, Ann and some other curious types arrived about 4 pm in three vehicles and met with Stuart, Megan and Manou. Gilbert wrote this account:
Stuart gave us a tour of Marloo through some fairly steep sections of trail.
The first gully was an appropriate demonstration of Stuart’s remediation of a watercourse to restore the creeks ‘meander’, slow the flow of water and rapid loss of nutrients, building steps in the eroded banks and installing banks at places where he had identified black silt evidence of previous wetland accumulations. He is in fact attempting to restore many of the natural features beginning with water storage and nutrient loss.
He is encouraging a range of plants back into the ecology, many of which are also self seeding.
Further on another more open slope he describe the creation of steps in the hillside and how it is meant to decrease the loss of water and nutrients. Also Stuart described how the more degraded soil becomes, the more spiky and forbidding are the plants that grow on it.
We made our way back up the slope to the top of the ridge line and to view the sites that Stuart had selected for the field trials of the hemp. There is a primary site that would be more suitable for Stuart’s purposes of soil remediation and a back up site that having already been worked might supply some hemp to work with for Cementa.
The first trial site is to the right of the photo, on the more level land beneath the striated hillside. The soil on the site has been ripped to allow moisture to penetrate. Stuart will shortly rip the eroded hillside and plough in some stepped tiers to prevent water from washing down the hill during a rain event. He is very specific about the depth to which the channel can be plowed, only to the top part of the upper layer of top soil. Beneath is clay soils that he does not want to flood with water as it diminishes soil fertility and increases threat of soil slippage.
In the end we made our way back to the house and continued the conversation that went on seemingly for an hour or more. I had some printed information about my project that was shared around, images of bamboo bikes – held together with hemp cord, the justification for growing the crop. With other images and files about the many uses of agricultural hemp.
After we said our goodbyes and we drove off back to Kandos Projects for a well earned beer and pizza.