The Otway Agroforestry Network (OAN) is a community landcare group of 250 members based in south west Victoria, that facilitates the establishment and management of multipurpose trees and shrubs on properties in ways that reflect owner needs. The result is a robust biological infrastructure that underpins the economic, environmental and social values of our agricultural landscapes. “Growing trees for conservation and profit”.
Multipurpose trees and shrubs can diversify productivity via cut flowers, native food plants, tree and native plant seed, honey, poles, Shiitake mushrooms, firewood and high quality timber. Multipurpose trees and shrubs also provide ecosystem services such as shade and shelter, reduced wind and water erosion, nutrient cycling, increased soil carbon, improved soil microbe activity, integrated pest management, greenhouse gas sequestration along with increased biodiversity and wildlife habitat.
OAN has a focus on capacity building primarily supported by a Peer Group Mentor service in which members are allocated a local, trained and experienced farmer and tree grower. Mentors assist with designing, planning and establishing farm re vegetation projects.
OAN also provides educational programs which enhance knowledge and skills and a regular newsletter which keeps members motivated, connected and networked.
OAN has 20 mentors with more than 150 mentees and operates over a broad area of south west Victoria. In order to enhance the service the NRCT is providing $60,000 in grant funding over 3 years towards:
- Expand the Peer Group Mentor program.
To expand an innovative and successful Peer Group Mentor program by consolidating locally coordinated satellites in the northern, southern, western, central and eastern regions of OAN operations. This will build locally focused networks with a focus on young farmers and improve alliances with existing stakeholders in the common goal of landscape restoration, farm diversification and community connectivity – robust and resilient landscapes and communities are the desired outcome. Conduct a minimum 2 site visits in all satellite regions. Western, eastern, northern, central and southern areas to consolidate and expand established satellite operations. Each visit will involve the mentoring of younger mentors by more experienced practitioners.Total – minimum of 10 site visits per annum over 2 years
- Conduct Mentor training programs.
To facilitate a “learning” Network that continuously explores new and innovative ways of improving environmental, agricultural and community resilience. This will be achieved by focusing on young peoples involvement through a range of activities including: Encouraging the sharing and discussion of ideas; Further training new young Mentors and farmers in order to facilitate succession planning. Training all Mentors and therefore landholders in areas of importance to them; keeping up to date with new and successful research and developments locally and internationally and sharing those with interested members. This includes conducting our own research on topics of relevance. Remaining open to all interested people and encouraging members to share their ideas/innovations. This encourages others to join and ensures a growing and evolving Network. Conduct 4 Technical Mentor training programs based on expressed needs of young Mentors. Conduct an informal discussion session for mentors to ensure ongoing sharing of ideas and support. It is critical for mentors to share experiences, learn from each other and experts in relevant fields in order to enhance their capacity to assist farmers. Training sessions also enhance networking and enable OAN to keep connected over a relatively large area. Training includes: Basic silvicultural techniques for high quality timber production; Gaining most value from well managed and sustainable farm grown trees; Disease threat for Cypress trees; Markets for forest products such as cut flowers, seed, firewood and high quality timber; Leadership skills; Habitat hectare assessments for regenerating forests; Drying milled timber for commercial use; Californian Redwood for erosion control and high quality timber. The intention is to train an additional group of young mentors to enhance the existing operation and achieve good succession planning
- A young farmer Master Tree Grower Course to be run in 2024. Another of these popular and very successful courses will be funded by NRCT and focusing particularly on the next generation of young farmers.