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Julie Firth

Drylands Permaculture Farm — Foundation for the future

The transition from the cool, wet and volcanic, fertile soils of rural Taranaki New Zealand, into the hot, dry infertile lands of the Midwest of Western Australia is a dramatic challenge when establishing a livelihood in primary production, and pioneering endeavour in Permaculture.

For Julie Firth, owner and manager of the ‘Drylands Permaculture Farm’, it was a challenge that began in 1989, and continues today. Supported by dedicated friends and work exchange volunteers Julie has transformed a degraded, barren three hectare property in semi-rural Waggrakine into an internationally recognised self-funded enterprise. The farm demonstrates the everyday application of permaculture  design to integrate sustainable livelihood and hands-on learning with the local environment and economy.

To ensure the intergenerational continuity of the Farm and to provide greater opportunities for similarly-driven individuals and organisations to help contribute to the long term work at the Farm, Julie Firth and fellow directors Johnny Barber and Josslyn Else, have established the registered environmental charity ‘Drylands Foundation’.

The Foundations’ emphasis for 2014 is on the promotion of the Farm’s not-for-profit heirloom seed business, the Permaculture Nursery and the development of on-farm training facilities using  ‘green-building’ design and construction.

For the Farm’s permaculture nursery, which has been supplying specialist local natives and multiple use plants for many years, the Foundation has been fortunate to engage Lyn Whitwell, formerly of Yetna Tree Nursery in the Chapman Valley, as Nursery Manager. Over two hundred species are being propagated for sale which will be available this autumn and winter for those in the community seeking to establish everything from low water use native gardens to productive food forests.

Drylands Permaculture Farm

It is an exciting time and busy time at the Farm, and the collaboration with Pollinators’ Andrew Outhwaite, has been significant  in the organisational development of the Drylands Permaculture Farm and the Drylands Foundation. Andrew said Drylands was an example of the sort of social enterprise and innovation that can thrive if given the right support: “It is utterly inspiring to see what Julie and the team have created. I frequently meet people highly-qualified people who’ve travelled from the UK, Europe, USA and around the world to learn on the farm.”

Andrew continued: “David Suzuki once said:

“What permaculturists are doing is the most important activity that any group is doing on the planet. We don’t know what details of a truly sustainable future are going to be like, but we need options, we need people experimenting in all kinds of ways and permaculturists are one of the critical gangs that are doing that.”

I really believe that people and communities around the world will be thankful for the knowledge and resources that Julie and her team are creating.”

More information is available on Drylands Permaculture Farm website — drylands.org.au — or contact Julie and the team at info@drylands.org.au

Pollinators Inc has provided advice, resources and connections to specialists to assist Drylands in structuring their organisation and activities, setting up their Foundation, getting planning approval for their education facilities.

This profile was researched and written by freelance journalist Steven White.

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