Have you ever heard of “Astronomical Agriculture”? Neither had we, which had the Australian Farmers team intrigued and wanting to find out more.
The Australian Agricultural Centre is on a working farm in NSW and delivers education and farm skills. While a relatively new initiative, the latest string to its bow in connecting young people with agriculture is “Astronomical Agriculture” involving a series of overnight visits.
“We have an amazing night sky and we wanted to bring urban students out for mindfulness and to discover what it is like to be in rural and regional areas,” Australian Agricultural Centre CEO Jo Marshall explains.
“We consulted with the Aboriginal Lands Council for mindful activities like storytelling language and rock painting, while we also sit around a fire and have a camp oven dinner with damper and the kids sleep in yurts.”
Astronomical Agriculture is also teaching people about lunar planting, which is growing plants according to the moon’s cycle, a notion not particularly common in the farming region where the centre is, but one Jo says is growing in popularity in other areas.
It’s where the moon’s cycle determines when plants are fertilised, watered and pruned and even whether it’s the best time to plant a root vegetable or leafy green.
We did it as an experiment, focusing on the sky and the moon, with Crookwell Community Garden and the Crookwell Public School.”
Across three sites, each had one Vegepod planted via the moon’s cycle and the other planted how people would do it at home on the weekend.
“At all three sites we noticed difference. I challenge everyone to try it,” Jo said.
“Since doing this, we have heard of farmers doing different processes with their livestock at different times with the moon. There are people trying it, it’s a bit like people trying regenerative agriculture.”
The inaugural Astronomical Agriculture series has been hailed a success, with some groups planning return visits with the entire school.
A lot of kids hadn’t been on farms and I would say 80 per cent hadn’t been camping before.”
Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) was also holding shearing demonstrations to show people how it works and the job opportunities in the industry, with many of the kids enjoying their first taste of shearing and seeing sheep dogs in action.
“It was really exciting and they wanted to stay at least another night, some even wanted to stay the whole week!”
The centre is in its infancy and visits also include paddock walks to explain biodiversity, while it is also looking to upskill people on how to drive tractors and motorbikes.
This is to enable kids to have more training when they do gap years, rather than turning up and expecting the farmer to train them when they don’t have time.”
Jo said high schools were particularly interested in what the centre could offer, being based on a working farm. “On school farms the stock get to know the yards and processes, but on a working farm you learn how to handle real livestock, rather than Daisy the trained cow.”
Find out more here.