When it comes to making positive change for the planet, there’s a common misconception that those changes are probably going to cost more. So you’d only do them for love… right? Not according to Michael, a cane grower from Queensland we met on a recent trip up north to launch our grants program. He transitioned to biological farming methods for financial, rather than philosophical, reasons — and saved a whole lot more than money in the process. Here’s his story.
Michael is a biological cane grower who gets his thrills from worm castings, soil tests and homemade fertiliser.
But he wasn’t always so interested in farming au naturale. It was financial necessity that drove Michael to make drastic changes to his business, or risk losing the lot.
Back when he was a conventional cane grower, Michael was getting just $1 a tonne for his sugar — and that’s not a typo. He needed to find a way to save money, and cutting out the $12k a year it was costing him to buy chemical inputs seemed like a good place to start.
“I figured, if we’re going to go broke with the chemical fertilizers, we may as well go broke with the homemade ones…but we didn’t!”
Michael now makes his own fertiliser from low-cost and/or “waste” items like fish frames, worm castings, molasses and milk to the tune of 10 tonne a year. He even engineered his own machinery to apply his unique form of fertiliser, which is straight-up genius.
So even though Mike’s proudly on board with all things regenerative, he’ll be the first to admit that money matters motivated him in the first instance.
By removing synthetic fertilisers and farming in harmony with nature, he not only cut costs but was surprised to find himself with extra time and energy — less weed and pest battles, a more balanced ecosystem. And of course, more scope to go boating! As well as that, his home-brewed natural amendments have boosted soil fertility and the quality of his crops, producing an altogether more valuable product. Sweet.
If you know people like Mike who are keen to transition to more planet-friendly ways of farming and feeding their community, we’d love for you to spread the word about our Fund.
We offer grassroots food system initiatives the support and funding they need to thrive, and even though we don’t have a grants round open at the mo, it won’t be long before we’re taking applications once again. Stay tuned! (And hey, you can sign up for our emails to be first to know about it.)
Yours in worm castings,