Since 2001 when we purchased Manna Hill Estate, we have farmed on a sustainable basis, which means that we can produce food indefinitely without causing significant damage to the environment. To achieve this we must protect the environment whilst maintaining a viable farm enterprise that is interlinked to the community.
The farm consists of 32 hectares of gently undulating land with 10 hectares planted out to olive trees, 10 hectares with bio-rich timber for carbon sequestration, shelter, and enhanced environmental outcomes, and 12 hectares of remnant native grasslands and bush associated with a waterway and valley to protect the indigenous environment.
We undertake a broad range of activities to avoid environmental degradation on our farm, and these are outlined below:
We don’t irrigate the grove to prevent build up of salinity in the soil and ensure that we don’t contribute to depletion of underground aquifers or removal of water from watersheds and waterways. Although this means we produce a smaller volume of olives, it has the great advantage that it results in a more intensely flavoured olive oil.
We have planted thousands of trees into bio-rich plantations to provide fauna habitat, prevent soil erosion, produce sustainable fuel, and sequester carbon.
We use solar hot water and grid interactive solar panels in conjunction with the use of 100% ‘green power’ to minimize our greenhouse gas emissions.
We have set aside part of the farm for regeneration of indigenous grasses and bushland while protecting the waterway from degradation by livestock. The protected remnant native grasslands and bush support many indigenous flora and fauna including kangaroo grass, indigenous wildflowers such as running postman and native orchids, kangaroo, wallaby, koala, echidna, possums, reptiles and a broad range of birds – including the majestic wedge-tailed eagle.
We regularly replace nutrients in the soil via organic means including the use of compost (including compost teas) and replacement of nitrogen through the use of legumes, such as clover, that takes nitrogen from the air and makes it available to the soil.
We maintain ground cover grasses at all times to ensure that there is no bare soil which would most likely result in wind and water erosion.
Historically we have maintained the grass on the grove floor with a tractor mounted mulched. However, in order to be more environmentally sustainable, we undertook a 2 year trial of using Wilitpol sheep with self-shedding wool to keep the grass down. This reduced our fuel requirement, fertilised the olives and provided another stream of income to the farm. However, the sheep ate the soft bark on the trees causing significant damage that created a high risk of killing the trees. Although we were forced to sell the sheep, we plan to run another trial in the future with a different variety of sheep.