Gippsland farmers are adapting farming practices and business models to combat the increasing symptoms of climate change.

Many local farmers owe these adaptations to their operational survival.


Briagolong farmer Steve Noble is a prominent example of Gippsland farmers who have diversified farming practices and business models in reaction to increasing climate change symptoms, establishing the now widely successful business Hugh Charles Clothing in response to the crippling 2017 to 2019 drought.

“My wife and I bought a farm next door to my parents, and a drought occurred straight afterwards, so we were looking for a bit of a side hustle just to bring in a few hundred dollars a week,” Mr Noble said.

Their mission was to provide quality clothing made from natural fibres, committing not to use polyester in Hugh Charles Clothing products where possible to reduce plastic pollution and support Australia’s wool, cotton and leather industries.

While Mr Noble has since moved away from full-time farming to manage the growing demands of Hugh Charles Clothing, the Briagolong farmer remains highly active within the agriculture industry.

Briagolong farmer Steve Noble established Hugh Charles Clothing in response to the crippling 2017 to 2019 drought. Photo: Zoe Askew

Based on his experience of having to adapt to combat the effects of the 2017-2019 drought and his farming background, Mr Noble believes that adaptability will serve as a means of survival as those in the agriculture sector face the intensifying pressures of climate change symptoms, increased weather extremes, and economic challenges such as the rising cost of living.

“I think that possibly those who are well established and don’t have debt and that sort of thing will be able to continue pretty similarly to how they are,” Mr Noble said.

“But younger people trying to get into it or those who have just started farming are going to have to adapt and do things differently and maybe have other outside sources of income or diversify into something else just to make it profitable.

“Along with the weather, there’s also tighter margins all the time, especially given property prices have gone up quite a bit, so you can’t rely on the same amount of money people were 20 years ago to cover all the costs you’ve got now, you need to be able to create extra revenue.

“So I think it is a number of things [pushing farmers to adapt], the weather is one of them definitely, but that is exacerbated by the fact that you can’t keep going through the hard times because you haven’t got that buffer because the expenses are higher.”

Amrita and Andrew

Located 40 kilometres southwest of Briagolong in Denison is Windsong Farm Providore, established by married couple Amrita and Andrew Bradley in 2012 and home to seven hives of bees as well as alpacas, chickens, rescue dogs, guinea fowl, and goats.

Amrita and Andrew live in an environmentally sustainable and community-minded manner, in harmony with the seasons, producing 100 per cent raw honey, sticky chai tea, beeswax, beeswax products, including lip balms, hand moisturiser, and food-safe wood conditioner, alpaca fibre, eco-warrior pet beds and 100 per cent cotton drill tote bags.

Windsong Farm Providore offers a variety of bee-related products, this wasn’t always the case.

As the effects of climate change began to hinder honey production and in order to maintain their values, Amrita and Andrew had little alternative but to diversify.

“We couldn’t and didn’t want to compete with the big honey producers,” Ms Bradley said.

“The reason being, is one, we still work, and two is that for us, we have the utmost respect for the bees and the process of beekeeping, and once you start getting more and more hives, it takes the enjoyment out of the actual process of beekeeping.

“Once you start to get into the hundreds of hives, it all becomes a time versus money activity as opposed to a mindfulness and environmental and caring activity for the bees, which is the way we want to keep it.

“So instead of getting more and more hives and getting more and more honey, we decided to diversify.

“We decided to diversify, yes from an environmental point of view, yes because it is getting increasingly tough, but also from a time and care point of view.

“I think you owe it to the animals you have to look after them, as opposed to just getting more and more for the sake of profit.”

Windsong Farm Providore’s Amrita Bradley with her rescue dog Teak. Photo: Zoe Askew

Rather than trying to get as much honey as possible into jars, Amrita and Andrew took little bits of honey, spreading it across various products, creating an entirely new range made from Windsong Farm Providore’s honey, bee’s wax and organic ingredients.

With climate change symptoms posing an increasing challenge to Windsong honey production, diversifying their farming practices and business model has worked in Amrita and Andrew’s favour.

“Last year, we got 150 kilos of honey; we were expecting about 500 kilos of honey,” Ms Bradley said.

“This year, we’ve only got 60 kilos, which is half of what we got the year before, so we can’t rely on putting honey into jars; it doesn’t work for us. But it does work if we take a little bit of that honey and spread that across a number of different products.

“For example, if I’m making a granola or a chai, I can get a lot more product out of that little bit of honey,” she explained.

“It’s also about teaming up with other businesses that have similar ethics to us and similar business plans; for example, we have recently teamed up with Nicholson River Soaps, and we put a little bit of our honey into a soap and for a few tablespoons of honey, I can make 60 soaps.”

Amrita and Andrew diversified their business model, with Windsong Farm Providore now offering a range of honey and beeswax-based products. Photo: Zoe Askew

Windsong Farm Providore has also teamed up with Rosedale Micro Craft Meadery, Bearded Bee Meadery and local family business The Nicholson Farm – Coffee & Nuts.

“Since diversifying, what we say we now do is honey and beeswax products,” Ms Bradley said.

“It’s not just honey; if we have honey, we have honey, but for the most part, we put our honey into other products, and we use the beeswax to create products, like 100 per cent beeswax candles.

“There are a lot of local businesses wanting to support, stock and supply local honey, and we can’t meet demand.

“We have had to diversify into other products and modify our business to survive.”

Windsong Farm Providore continues to search for new, innovative ways to expand its business and offer more to its local and surrounding community, with its latest venture exploring the offering of events.


One hundred and forty-five kilometres west of Briagolong and 110kms west of Denison in the Gippsland town of Noojee lives retired sustainable and organic farmer Liz Clay.

As a fourth-generation vegetable farmer who has farmed in Noojee, north of Warragul, for 40 years, 30 of which she was a certified organic farmer, Ms Clay has built herself an extensive internal library of agricultural knowledge, which has supported her and others within the industry in implementing adaptive farming practices.

“By nature, farmers have had to be very adaptable to climate changes, and climatic variability is something farmers are very familiar with, so they’re used to having droughts and floods, and they’re used to taking ques from what’s happened in the past and what might happen in the future,” Ms Clay said.

“They’re usually pretty solid followers of the Bureau of Meteorology, and certainly, that’s one adaptive practice that farmers these days are really clued into – what’s the Beauro saying about the long-range forecasts?

“There has been a whole range of adaptive practices that farmers are used to taking on board, and now they are really having to hone their skills and expand their adaptive practices with the extreme weather events that we’re experiencing now.”

Ms Clay concentrated on the biology and health of her soil as a technique of adaptation and combatant against climate change symptoms, among other regularly employed adaptive agricultural practices such as contingency planning and irrigation.

“You really need to plan for these extreme events and have some contingencies under your belt,” Ms Clay said.

“It’s a matter of adaptation and planning and knowing how to design our farming system to make it more resilient to these shocks, and that’s where we call on all sorts of people researching this area and other farmers’ experiences.

“One thing I was, I am particularly interested in changing agriculture and what has been going on over the years is the interest in agriculture acknowledging and farming the soil, farming the soil and farming the life in the soil, the biodiversity in the soil.”

The agriculture sector is one of the biggest emitters of CO2, the greenhouse gas (GHG) most responsible for the changes we are seeing in our climate today. Photo: Contributed

This adaptive farming practice which is fast gaining momentum within the agriculture sector as an efficient, effective and sustainable farming method, is known as regenerative agriculture.

“Regenerative agriculture is really, simply, acknowledging the role of the soil in stabilising and creating resilience in the farming system and in the landscape,” Ms Clay said.

Regenerative agriculture blends sustainable innovation with tradition focusing on the literal regeneration of the soil and the planet’s ecosystems, ultimately improving soil, delivering high productivity and high-quality food, helping fight climate change, and restoring lost biodiversity.

Regenerative agriculture comprises a range of techniques supported by innovative technologies, which can combat the challenges caused by climate change by restoring the health of soil and protecting the land’s ecosystem.

By adapting her farming practices and exercising regenerative agriculture, Noojee’s Ms Clay was able to equip her land and farming ecosystem with a higher resilience to destructive climate change symptoms.

“Climate changes are not new; the extremity of those changes is new, though,” she said.

“Adapting is a must in farming, now more so than ever.”

Uncharted territory

A new update by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) has predicted global temperatures could reach record levels in the next five years, with the Global Annual to Decadal Climate Update report recording an almost 70 per cent chance of global near-surface temperature exceeding 1.5°C above preindustrial levels between 2023 and 2027.

Professor Petteri Taalas, the secretary general of the WMO, said the Global Annual to Decadal Climate Update report does not mean that global near-surface temperature will permanently exceed the 1.5°C threshold.

“WMO is sounding the alarm that we will breach the 1.5°C level on a temporary basis with increasing frequency,” Professor Taalas said.

“A warming El Nino is expected to develop in the coming months, and this will combine with human-induced climate change to push global temperatures into uncharted territory.

“This will have far-reaching repercussions for health, food security, water management and the environment,” he said.

“We need to be prepared.”

There is a 98 per cent likelihood that at least one of the next five years will be the hottest on record, the WMO found.

Arctic heating is also predicted to be more than three times the global average, according to the Global Annual to Decadal Climate Update report, promoting climate scientists in Australia to warn of an increased bushfire risk and the potential destruction of the Great Barrier Reef.

A new update by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) has predicted global temperatures could reach record levels in the next five years. Photo: Contributed

The Global Annual to Decadal Climate Update report comes six months after the CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology’s biannual State of the Climate report, drawing on the latest climate monitoring, science and projection information to detail Australia’s current and future changing climate.

The State of the Climate 2022 report revealed concentrations of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are at the highest levels on Earth in at least two million years.

Changes in weather and climate extremes, which significantly impact the health and wellbeing of communities and ecosystems, including extreme heat, heavy rainfall and coastal inundation, fire weather and drought, are occurring at an increased pace, the State of the Climate 2022 report found.

Sea surface temperatures have increased by an average of 1.05 °C since 1900, which has led to an increase in the frequency of extreme heat events over land and sea.

The past decade has seen record-breaking extremes leading to natural disasters exacerbated by anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change.

With more and more sobering data indicating increasing symptoms of climate change directly impacting the livelihood of all Australians, particularly those in the farming industry, can it be expected that more and more Gippsland farmers will soon rely on adaptations to their farming practices and business models to survive?


Angus Zilm is an owner-operator of a grass-fed beef farming business in Gippsland, managing his business across multiple properties around Stratford and Sale for the past 10 years.

Like many other local farmers, Mr Zilm has had to adapt in order to survive.

“We were predominately farming dry land for the first few years, and we couldn’t do it,” Mr Zilm said.

“We needed irrigation to support our business to give us that reliability of being able to grow grass, so we sought out irrigation land as a primary backbone of our business.

Angus Zilm (far right) became a Gippsland Agricultural Group (GAgG) board member in October 2022. Photo: File

“Since that, we have strategically sought to acquire land with undulation and different topography as well as environmental benefits – so shade, a shelter for cattle, hills to prevent flooding, open country as well as low country,” he said.

“It definitely wasn’t something that was a priority; it wasn’t something that was at the forefront of our minds that we were incrementally going to have to look for different properties, or property, with all these attributes; it was like people have been farming this way forever, why can’t we continue to farm this way.

“Now it’s more like survival, adapt and survive or don’t survive.”