Endorsements and Reviews

Professor Lesley Hughes, Macquarie University, IPCC Lead Author

I found the book immensely readable and engaging and the 14 stories of the farmers really inspiring. I also found Bill's chapter on climate science up to date and credible.  ###

Professor Hughes is also a member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists, and a member of the Climate Council in Australia.

Kelly O'Shanassy, CEO, Australian Conservation Foundation

In Against the Grain Bill Hampel has produced a book that fills an important gap in the literature about climate change and the preservation and improvement of our land.

The Australian Conservation Foundation has a proud history of working with farmers and communities to help protect and restore rural landscapes, from forming Landcare with the National Farmers Federation a quarter of a century ago to encouraging the land stewardship efforts of the Environmental Farmers Network.

Now, writing in a simple, straightforward, non-technical style, Bill Hampel tells the stories of fourteen Australian farmers who are tackling climate change literally at the grass roots level.

These farmers, with their feet on the ground and dirt under their fingernails, are using a range of techniques to cut the CO2 and other greenhouse gas output of their farms while adapting to the disruption of the historical weather patterns around which farming has been based.

They are doing it at their own expense while maintaining and developing their farms as profitable businesses and adding environmental value to the land they inherited or bought.

While giant corporate polluters and other vested interests continue to resist the push to seriously tackle climate change, a whole bunch of Australian farmers are getting on with the job.

This is a book of hope -- a book that says to every Australian we can do it.

I congratulate these farmers and their colleagues who are pioneering this work and Bill Hampel for bringing these stories to a wide audience.  ###

Review by Leon Oberg, "Town and Country" Magazine

August 17, 2015

SHOULD we humans simply ignore the fires, floods and increased deaths climate change is bringing?

Fourteen farmers – those who are bearing the brunt of climate change and who accept the science, tell how they have observed or recorded the unpredictable weather events, the reduction in rainfall and its shift to the hotter months when it is less useful to plants.

Far from contributing to the problem with their farming practices, these practitioners demonstrate how they are reducing their greenhouse gases to zero (or below in some cases) and significantly, remain profitable.

All are committed to pass on their farm in a better condition than when they bought or inherited it.

Crops or livestock, big or small, they have worked cooperatively, mostly through Landcare, to plant thousands of trees and daily enjoy and in one case meticulously record, over 100 bird species. 

Several have blocks of mature trees just for posterity.

These inspiring and informative farmer stories appear in retired tertiary teacher Bill Hampel’s latest book, ‘Against the Grain’ and will open up a world absolutely new to most city dwellers.

One of those farmers is John Ive, who with his wife Robyn conduct an ultra fine (13-14 micron) wool growing enterprise at their property ‘Talaheni’, outside Yass, NSW.

John, a former CSIRO scientist and the winner of many awards including the 2013 gong for ‘extra ultra-fine fleece’ at the Australian Sheep and Wool Show, insists science is the key to productivity.

He demonstrates how a “landscape approach” to land management on Talaheni has lifted pasture production.

When he bought his rundown block, one third of the property was saline but strategic tree planting transformed the enterprise, eventually winning some 25 awards for his scientific approach to farming.

This has included managing runoff water from the less productive areas of his property, directing it to the flatter more fertile areas and developing a computerised means of gauging soil moisture content.

Mr Ive’s fascinating story, and those of the thirteen other dedicated farmers around the nation interviewed for this book will offer many valuable tips for the hosts of many less scientific people struggling with water shortages, heat related production losses, and much more.  ###

Review by Tilly Reynolds, "Park Watch" — Victorian National Parks Association

September, 2015 (go to p.33; p.37 in PDF count)

In this book, Bill Hampel introduces 14 Victorian farmers and describes how they are restoring their land while responding to the threat of climate change.

The farmers’ stories are highly personal and enjoyable to read. Hampel articulates their love for their land and what they do, as well as some of their gripes with the agricultural industry.

Featured among the 14 are Bernie Fox and Sue Hayman-Fox, who occupy an eco- friendly terradome home built on their property in NW Victoria and harvest seeds from native trees and shrubs to regenerate indigenous vegetation. Bernie was formerly VNPA President, and Sue was VNPA Treasurer, as well as our Finance and Operations Manager.

The book highlights Bernie and Sue’s involvement in Project Hindmarsh as well as the connection between that and NatureWatch’s ‘Caught on Camera’ project, which has cameras operating on their property.

Many of the profiled farmers are involved in Landcare, and Hampel stresses the importance of local partnerships for environmental conservation, as well in supporting stressed and often isolated farmers.

Revegetation is just one practice being adopted by many of the landholders. The book also discusses how the properties are reaching carbon neutrality by measures such as supplying higher quality feed and oils to stock, improving soil carbon, employing new techniques of fertiliser application, and harnessing biofuels and renewable energy.

Hampel dedicates almost half of the book to giving a context for the climate change issue. He sets out the science underpinning climate change, and discusses Australia’s response to it in terms of the media and politics.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, in which Hampel effectively draws on science to tell a story about our lack of response on a national level, and the local farmers who are determined to make a difference on a local level.   ###

Review by Sarah Hudson, "The Weekly Times"

29 October, 2015

IN the tempest that is climate change, farmers are in the eye of the storm.

Not only are farmers under threat, and are being forced to adapt to the new weather regimen, but agriculture is also a contributor to global warming and, as such, is seen as a sector needing to reduce carbon emissions.

These are the issues at the heart of Bill Hampel’s book Against the Grain: Fourteen farmers adapt to climate change.

The 280-page book is intelligent and insightful, providing a detailed overview of the science and government policies. But the book is at its best when speaking to those 14 farmers.

Given the author lived in the Mallee as a boy — and spent his summer holidays helping wheat carters bring their load to the silo — there is quite a Victorian contingent on show.

We meet Ross McDonald, a cropping farmer from Kaniva, who appears on the cover.

During the three decades Ross has managed the property, he has noticed considerable changes to the environment: the average annual 450mm of rain has reduced to 360-380mm — with little or no rain in the crucial spring and an overall reduction in subsoil moisture — while temperature has increased together with frosts.

But, according to Against the Grain, Ross and wife Fran are doing as much as they can to reduce their environmental footprint, right down to using biofuels.

Other interviewees include cattle farmers Bob and Anne Davie on Phillip Island and Gippsland dairy farmer Marian Macdonald. Former SPC director and orchardist John Pettigrew — known for his outspoken views — is also included.

The message throughout is that Aussie farmers are on the front line of climate change. It’s a big battle, but one that can be taken on if farmers have a united, strong voice.  ###

Review for "Outback" magazine

Although traditionally viewed as climate-change sceptics, many Australian farmers have, for generations, witnessed rising temperatures and lower rainfall figures. This relatively simple book, written by a bloke who grew up in the Mallee country of western Victoria, includes chats with 14 farmers who have acknowledged climate change is a reality and are endeavouring to farm sustainably. “All the 14 are on the front foot”, Bill Hampel writes. “They change what they can control and adapt to what they can’t”

Bill starts with the “Bare Facts” on climate change, breaking down current knowledge into a few pity pages. The then delves into the 14 case studies. 

Most of the farmers are from Victoria, spread from Marian MacDonald’s Gippsland dairy through to large properties in western Victoria, such as Mark Wootton’s Jigsaw Farms, with 88,000 sheep and 700 head of cattle. We hear from grain grower Ross McDonald, who has only twice in the past 16 years received the supposedly “average” rainfall of 450 millimetres. As well as orchardists and grape growers, there are innovative primary producers such as Bernie Fox and Sue Hayman Fox, who plant, nurture and harvest seeds from native trees and shrubs on their 621-hectare farm in the Mallee. 

The 280-page book isn’t all about climate change. Subjects include animal welfare, farm succession, wildlife corridors, tree planting, species extinction and soil management. It includes an extensive reference list and index. ###