Enabling change in our Society, Environment and Economy (SEE)

City meets Country

Sharing a story of modern sustainable farming

By Sarah Stitt, Woden member.

The weeks are flying by and in my memory I have this lovely experience to share.

On Friday 30 and Saturday 31 October I took myself off to the country on a ‘City to Country Exchange’ organised by Kosciusko to Coast (K2C) and the Upper Shoalhaven Landcare (USL).

The location was on the outskirts of the settlement of Mongarlowe on the Mongarlowe River at Tombarra – I would probably describe this place as a 60s family motel.

Tombarra has existed for some decades but is undergoing a transformation with it’s new proprietor. The three Ms – Martin, and the two Matts – are reinventing it.

They have metamorphosed an extremely run down shed into a fabulous function centre and are in the process of renovating the original 60s motel structures into gorgeous roomy accommodation, which will offer more than 50 beds.

Working together, they are creating a Sustainable Learning Institute.

The inaugural event was titled: Modern Sustainable Farming Solutions.

The crowd gathered, approximately 50 – from Canberra, Bungendore, Braidwood, Majors Creek, Mongarlowe and other local areas – to listen to farmers, business owners and scientists tell their stories.

The move from large paddocks to smaller; moving stock more regularly; locking up areas; planting trees and shrubs to create habitat for smaller birds and other animals; introducing and protecting the bio-diversity of both flora and fauna; the importance of the water cycle and water in the landscape; learning about negative and positive electrons in water and what this means to the health of everything which lives; the importance of nutritious food; healthy soils to grow healthy, nutritious plants; all of this meaning that people are more healthy and therefore happier.

These concepts were explained through the experiences and research of the speakers – Felicity Sturgiss – Biodiversity Program Landcare, Victoria Royds – artist farmer; Peter Hazell from Mulloon Natural Farms; Martin Royds – with many hats, Sustainable Learning Institute, Upper Shoalhaven Landcare and Jillamatong Beef; Rob Gourlay – Soil Health and Human Health; Colin McClean – Southern Harvest Association; Rainer Rehwinkel – ecologist and K2C.

I believe that all present added a little more learning to their vast array of knowledge.

The underlying thread of these stories is that a means to good ends can be met.

As we rely on the environment to provide, we need to respect and value the resource base that supports us.

We need to understand that we are a part of the environment, our resource base.

We need to stop fast solutions, give the environment time and in so doing create a healthy landscape which will yield high nutrition in food and in turn result in healthy, happy people.

We then dispersed to visit a productive vegetable garden in Braidwood and to experience the beautiful farm of Jillamatong, Martin Royds’ work–in-progress in the landscape. A picture tells a thousand words.

Where to from here? This will be the beginning of a city to country, or perhaps country to city, learning relationship. Watch this space.

SEE-Change_Woden city to country exchange-2

With thanks to our


  • ACT Government Environment and Planning
  • The Association of Independent Schools of the ACT (AISACT)
  • Catholic Education Office (Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn)
  • Education and Training Directorate
  • ACT Government