by Lisa McIntosh
Being a farmer is never easy but making the commitment to farm organically can be an even tougher row to hoe – literally hoeing weeds. However, for the Reichenbach family of Victoria’s Wimmera district, they believe that decision is the right one in line with their Christian faith.
The past couple of years have been pretty dry on the Reichenbach family farm, which is located approximately 80 kilometres north-west of Horsham in Victoria.
But for third generation farmer Lou and his son Luke who work and manage the 1400 hectare property, supported by their wives Jan and Megan, drought years are an opportunity to trust that God is in control.
The farm is a certified organic mixed farming operation, producing wheat, barley, oats and some hay in the cropping department, as well as sheep for wool and meat. The whole property was certified organic as of 2014. However, the Reichenbachs, who are members at St John’s Lutheran Church in nearby Jeparit, began to embrace organic practices in the early 2000s.
One environmental practice they use is shelter belts. Made up of native trees and shrubs within the farm’s paddocks, these act as a windbreak, giving protection to the sheep, providing habitat for birds and beneficial insects, which in turn minimise pests in crops and pasture.
The Reichenbachs also grow saltbush, a quickly regenerated source of minerals for the sheep – and an added attraction for buyers of their lamb. In addition, they don’t use any chemical sprays or synthetic fertilisers in their broadacre farming.
‘The organic system is a holistic approach using biological inputs such as compost, kelp, microbes and various mineral fertilisers. These are used in conjunction with practices like green manuring and controlled grazing to improve soil, plant, animal and ultimately human health’.
Lou began questioning conventional agriculture ‘late last century’ and its possible impacts on human health.
‘I used to occasionally suffer headaches while applying chemicals and this got me questioning things’, he says.
But what makes caring for the environment even more important for the Reichenbachs as they work with their land is their faith.
‘As Christians we live our lives to glorify God and as Christian farmers we live and farm to glorify God in all that we do’, Lou says with agreement from the whole family. Luke chips in: ‘Faith and farming are intrinsically intertwined’.
‘It’s God’s earth and we are privileged to be stewards of it as farmers and we acknowledge that he’s the giver of all good gifts’, Lou continues. ‘Farming is not always a walk in the park, and your faith is often tested … especially [by] droughts. But we are encouraged by the words of St Paul: “Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess 5:18).’
The Reichenbachs’ tips on caring for the environment
- Work with nature, not against it.
- Consider weeds in a new light. A point to ponder is that weeds are not the enemy, they grow for a reason.
Consider what you consume and what you expose your