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Tell us about Farmers For Climate Action (FCA) and how you got involved?
Farmers for Climate Action (FCA) is a movement of farmers, agricultural leaders and rural Australians working to ensure that farmers, who are on the frontline of climate change, are part of its solution. FCA supports farmers to build climate and energy literacy and advocate for climate solutions both on and off farm. FCA is independent, non-profit and non-partisan. We work closely with stakeholders across the agricultural and climate sectors to manage risks and find opportunities to tackle the challenge of climate change. It started when a group of farmers got together and said we’re going to do something about climate change!
Why farming and climate change?
As farmers live and work so closely with the natural world, they are some of the first to feel the true impacts of climate change. They are the canaries down the coalmine, so to speak.
Changes in rainfall and temperature affect what we can grow and where we can grow it. Floods, bushfires, droughts, and increased distribution of pests and disease, are not good for farm business. For instance, more than $1 billion has been wiped from the value of Australia’s annual crop production due to changes in climate over the past two decades. Less money in the farmers pocket means they employ less people in their business, spend less money in their rural community, and many have to search for off-farm employment. Climate change therefore has very real impacts on people, livelihoods and the environment.
And it’s not only farmers who feel the impacts of climate change – the impacts on food production hits everyone in our community. Food accessibility goes down, nutritional value drops, and food prices go up. Every meal on every plate is impacted by climate change, and will continue to be impacted if we don’t act quickly to address this issue.
But the exciting thing is, that agriculture plays a key role in combating climate change and ensuring long-term environmental health! As farmers, we can capture and store carbon in our soils and vegetation. We can restore degraded land and reduce deforestation using improved land management techniques. We can install solar panels and wind turbines in our paddocks – so we not only feed and clothe the world, but help to power it as well. We can use both traditional knowledge to increase native food and botanicals production, and the latest advancements in engineering, robotics and genetics to use our resources most wisely. We can also ensure we move in the right direction most effectively by being responsible consumers and by putting in place strategies and policies to guide us to the future we want to see.
Tell us about your portrait?
The portraits were taken on my family’s farm in far western NSW, near Broken Hill. It is home and I love it out here. It is also my driver for the work I do on climate change. Broken Hill is naturally a hot and dry bioregion – so we’re no strangers to droughts, heatwaves and duststorms out here. But climate change makes these extreme weather events more common and more intense. The droughts are becoming longer. The heatwaves are becoming hotter. And duststorms that blacken the sky are becoming more frequent. Looking at the projections for this region under a business-as-usual scenario is really quite sobering and would have huge impact on my family’s farm. So I do everything I can to raise awareness of climate change challenges on farming and, most importantly, what we can do about it.
From your point of view, why is sustainability in the fashion industry so important?
A sustainable fashion industry is one that addresses some big issues, like; the exploitation of workers who manufacture clothes in toxic conditions; fast fashion and poor quality clothes contributing to landfill and carbon emissions; synthetic materials that lead to micro-plastics in oceans.
Clothes with high social, ethical and environmental standards are so important to me. Conscious consumerism is about buying less and buying better. It is about valuing people and planet over profits and possessions. Consumerism isn’t the bearer of all evil – but the way we are currently doing it is. We need to live more sustainably – and that means living responsibly and with integrity. It means satisfying our needs without compromising the rights, resources and wellbeing of future generations.
What is your usual outfit on the farm?
I’m all for comfort and practicality! When indoors I’m usually in some comfy loungewear, but I throw on a cotton shirt, jeans and some boots when I’m heading out the door. My day’s usual activities involve taking the dogs for a walk before breakfast, feeding the horses in the stables, doing a water-run (checking on the sheep troughs) and general farm inspection to make sure everything’s going well. Odd-jobs always pop-up, so having the right clothes is important!
What is your take on making your wardrobe more sustainable?
I live with a strong eco-conscience, and try to reduce, reuse, recycle and repair clothes when I can. Being ‘green’ used to mean being quirky but now it is mainstream, fashionable, sophisticated and everyone expects it of their products, including their clothes. I think a sustainable wardrobe is about respecting clothes – who was involved in making them, having regard for the fibres that create the fabrics, and ultimately giving clothes a full life.
What practices do you think fashion brands should be focusing on to create a more sustainable business?
They should have the highest social, environmental and ethical standards possible. This is everything from sourcing raw materials, worker conditions, to consumer education about sustainable fashion and encouraging respectful consumerism. As consumers we should also be demanding better from the products we buy. Ask your favourite brands, where are these clothes made and what are they made from? If they don’t meet your standards, then let the fashion brands know!
What are your favourite sustainable fashion brands?
Iris and Wool, by Emily Riggs. This is a stylish knitwear label which is passionate about showcasing the journey from farm to clothes, and is championing Australian merino wool. Emily is a sheep producer at Burra, SA, and her label Iris and Wool creates gorgeous pieces from super fine merino wool which is naturally a biodegradable fibre.
Who is your style icon?
My style icons are people who own who they are – it’s more than clothes – it’s attitude and what one does in life that is true style. True style radiates from those people.
What is your favourite item in your wardrobe and why? Tell us the story.
My favourite item is my wedding dress. I was supposed to be getting married in March this year, but due to COVID-19, the wedding has had to be postponed. So my wedding dress is still hanging in the wardrobe waiting to be worn! It is a stunning cream coloured, raw silk dress that my grandmother purchased for a few dollars at an op-shop in Melbourne. I love that it is a natural material. I love that it was found at an op-shop, re-styled and upcycled. I love that my Grandma has such fantastic fashion taste and found it for me!
What’s your favourite Mighty Good Basics style and why?
I love the black singlet top and bikini undies. Not only are they super comfy and are made from lovely natural cotton, but I reckon they look pretty good on too!
Given that 77% of UK retailers believe there is a likelihood of Modern Slavery in their supply chain, what do you think the fashion industry should be doing to prevent this?
The belief that we can’t do anything about sustainability issues is not only untrue, but fundamentally irresponsible. From manufacturers to consumers, we need to be informed and educated on what is going on, we need to be engaged with the problem and motivated to do something about it. Consumers are becoming more conscious about their purchases – as not all fashion is equal – and if manufacturers or retailers don’t step up to meet their value set, then those fashion labels no doubt will fall to the wayside. It is everyone’s responsibility to be addressing issues in fashion like worker exploitation, landfill waste, carbon emissions and micro-plastic pollution, because we are all part of it!