Dagun’s Elaine Bradley has won a coveted Churchill Fellowship to investigate community survival techniques.
Dagun’s Elaine Bradley has won a coveted Churchill Fellowship to investigate community survival techniques. Renee Pilcher

Valley can learn from overseas

DAGUN'S Elaine Bradley believes the dam-devastated Mary Valley can learn a lot from similarly damaged communities overseas.

Particularly, the region's new Churchill Fellow is keen to learn from similarly damaged agricultural areas in the USA, particularly the Appalachian Mountain region of North Carolina and Virginia.

"They have had to rebuild their rural communities and economies because of coalmining," she said.

Ms Bradley said she was keen "to learn from rural communities that have successfully rebuilt their local economies by supporting networks of small farms working together".

"I'm particularly interested in the operation of small farms (that is, properties of less than 40ha) because of the similarity of these farms to many in the Mary Valley."

Some smaller farms were considered too small to be commercially viable but she said a co-operative organisation could be the crucial factor in gaining efficiencies in the small farming sector.

But co-operation could be the key, if farmers took turns to operate market stalls.

"Last year, I did a survey in the Mary Valley from Gilldora to Conondale to find out exactly what is being grown, and how much, and what constraints there are on the capacity of growers. I found that many could grow more for the market if they did not have to spend so much time doing their own marketing," she said.

"The Mary Valley has undergone huge economic decline with dairy deregulation, the sale of plantation forests, rising costs and the impact of the Traveston Crossing dam.

"The Appalachian region has suffered similar problems over a longer period."

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