Unearthing Regen Ag with Christie Stewart
This friendly smile belongs to Christie Stewart, our Regenerative Farmer Coordinator and the owner and beekeeper of Bidjaronning Honey. She smiles a lot as she loves what she does and believes she is living the dream!
Christie works closely with all our farmers to create their Regenerative Farm Plans - visiting the farmers regularly to review their plans and discuss the regenerative practices implemented on their farm.
She also plays the role of “farmer translator” in simplifying the intricacies of regenerative agriculture and showing how our farmers are implementing this on their farms.
Agriculture has always played a big part in Christie’s life, and she has a wealth of knowledge on the subject gained from study and life experience. She is extremely passionate about Regenerative Agriculture and the integral part it plays in fighting climate change.
So, who is Christie and how did Regen Ag become so important to her?
Christie grew up on her family’s farm in the Wheatbelt near Wongan Hills where they farmed mixed cereals including wheat, lupins, barley, canola, and chickpeas.
Christie has plenty of fond memories of her childhood on the farm. From a young age she’s wanted to help make things better. She remembers getting told off by her Mum when she was about ten after returning home from school on a 40+ degree day. She was feeling very hot and thought that the chickens must be too, so her mum found the chickens bobbing along in the pool and Christie cooling off in her school uniform!
Farming in the Wheatbelt presents many challenges and Christie was no stranger to long hours, hard work and a faith in the weather to look after them.
“Growing up on a broadacre cropping farm water was always central to my family’s life and livelihood. My childhood was spent leaning on the western fence, holding my breath, and crossing my fingers that the front rolling in from the Northwest would make it as far as our place at the foot of the Wongan Hills,” said Christie.
Christie left home on an overseas Rotary Exchange in Denmark for 12 months. Upon returning she completed a Diploma in Fine Furniture Making at the Australian School of Wood in Dwellingup. After graduating she wanted to do something that had a greater impact on her surrounding environment, so moved to Perth to study a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture at UWA.
Sadly, during this time her family made the extremely difficult decision to sell their farm as the business was becoming unviable, following a series of dry years, combined with economy of scale. It was while at university that Christie had a revelation about the health and wellbeing of her agro-ecological landscape. “I used to get angry that the landscape that I loved so much had become so sick, and I had always felt there must be an alternative to the way of doing things that was more sustainable for both the land, and for the people managing the land. It was the discovery of Regenerative Agriculture that turned that anger and despair into hope for the future, which has become my driving force for positive change in everything I do.”
She based her Honours research project on the sustainability challenges facing broadacre farmers in the Wheatbelt and developed a regenerative farm plan based on their farm. She finished with first-class honours and went on to win the HASSELL Travelling Scholarship - Robin Edmond Award for her Honours project. This Australia-wide award recognises graduating landscape architecture students who show outstanding potential for future contribution to the profession.
After working for 4 years at a leading WA Landscape Architecture and Urban Design company, Christie made a return to agriculture in 2019 when she joined our team. She also moved back to the Wheatbelt and now lives in Wandering, a short drive from where it all began for Dirty Clean Food.
We look forward to unearthing the world of Regen Ag through Christie’s regular blogs so we too can become experts in the field….or at the very least have a few more notches in the belt for the next quiz night!