In 1998, Isabel Jirasek and Simon Dixon purchased their first rural property, an 80 hectare block between Canberra and Yass in NSW. Soon after they bought the neighbouring farm doubling the size of ‘Bundidgerry’. The landholders sought to protect and enhance the remaining native bush and creek areas of their new farm, while also improving productivity. With little experience or training in land management however they needed support to achieve their vision. Over the past 20 years, Isabel and Simon have worked with us to transform their property into a diverse and productive farm. Their journey provides many valuable lessons for other landholders across the region.
When Isabel and Simon moved onto Bundidgerry it had remaining pockets of native bush, wetlands, dams and creeks with abundant wildlife including red neck wallabies, swamp wallabies, eastern grey kangaroos, antechinus, dunnarts and echidnas. But like many properties in the region that have been poorly managed in the past, the land was plagued by blackberries, bare patches from overgrazing, salinity, a large rabbit population, and poor water quality due to erosion and unstable creek banks.
Isabel and Simon immediately began assessing what needed to be done, creating a farm plan. They began work to control the blackberries and rabbits and planted tube stock to stabilise the creeks and saline areas. In 2000, funding from Greening Australia enabled them to fence part of the creek to limit damage by their grazing cattle, provide alternative water sources and protect areas of native bush.
“Our first contact with Greening Australia was the beginning of a valuable partnership that has continued to the current day. To have our project endorsed by GA was a marvelous boost for our morale, particularly when we were tackling so many new, costly and difficult things.”
In 2009, Isabel volunteered to establish a seed production area, to supply valuable seed for Greening Australia’s restoration projects. They planted 1,400 plants, and learned how to identify, harvest and clean the seed. Bundidgerry has since provided over 151 kilograms of seed from 22 species to Greening Australia including eucalypts, shrubs, grasses and forbs.
“Australian native plants are so tough and even in the worst droughts on our farm, there was still seed. We need native plants back in our landscape to help manage the effects of climate change.”
“Having this diversity of native plants makes such a difference to birds, insects and wildlife. I want to continue to deliver high quality seed with good provenance to GA because without good seed, there will be no good projects. Our seed has been used by GA to grow nursery tubes, direct seeding and even as foundation plants for other seed production areas.”
Since 1998, Isabel and Simon have planted 3,000 trees and shrubs, protected 40 hectares of habitat, laid two kilometres of water pipe and completed six kilometres of fencing Resulting in significant benefits for productivity and biodiversity.
“A strategic approach to the placement of vegetation in a conservation zone benefits farm productivity. It allows opportunities for periodic grazing and for these areas to become an extension of existing paddocks. A well-managed conservation zone does not have to be locked up and excluded from the farm. Utilising these areas sensitively can still mean substantial gains for wildlife, water quality and farming activities. By protecting our dams, we are rewarded by abundant frog life and still retain good habitat for ducks and other waterbirds.”
In 2011, Simon and Isabel purchased a further 80 hectares of land containing a diverse range of intact plant communities that are difficult to find in the region. Several community field days have been held on the new site and Isabel has been able to collect seed off several new rare plants.
In 2017, Greening Australia and the landholders planted 400 drooping she-oak and other trees and wattles on their farm to create habitat for Glossy Black Cockatoos. This year, a further 500 trees and shrubs will be planted as part of the Australian Government’s 20 Million Trees Programme.
“In 1999, our vision for Bundidgerry was to create a network of conservation zones throughout the property. We were driven by a passion for the natural environment and a vision for the future. All of the projects are helping to make this vision a reality and created multiple benefits to other aspects of the farm.”
“It is with a sense of pride that we can see how our land management has had a positive effect on livestock, remnant bush, water ways and general pastures. We feel privileged to be able to care for such a place, particularly in the knowledge that our children will understand the importance of taking care of their environment.”
In 2017 Isabel was nominated for a NSW individual Landcarer of the year award in acknowledgement for her passion and hard work.
Greening Australia project manager Jeni De Landre says she feels privileged to be part of Isabel and Simon’s vision for Bundidgerry.
“There was never a time when Isabel said no to me bringing out a community group during spring to conduct a wild flower walk or a car convoy of local landowners. Isabel is very passionate about sharing her ups and downs and making sure community members from all walks of life understand just how much diversity can be in the landscape with changed farming practices. I have always driven away from Bundidgerry with a very positive attitude and optimistic about the future of our farming landscapes.”