ACT News


Farmer built home from straw

STRAW homes and biodynamic burgers can help save us from the big bad wolf that is climate change.

This was the message being preached on Saturday by farmer Greg Oliver who lives in his own four-bedroom straw-bale house.

He gave his talk at the Harvest Festival held by the Canberra Environment Centre where more than 2000 people turned up to buy fresh produce and eat $10 biodynamic burgers - the burgers were a fund-raiser for the centre.

Mr Oliver and wife Sue Armstrong run a biodynamic farm at Bungendore and are happy to educate others about the practical ways they look after the land and debunk thoughts that sustainable farming is in any way hippie-ish.

''A lot of people say, 'Biodynamics, is that where you dance naked under the moon?', but these issues have a really sound scientific underpinning,'' Mr Oliver said.

His straw home is solar passive, meaning the windows, walls and floors are made to collect and store heat and cool, depending on the season.


The interior and exterior of the straw is rendered with mud and lime and the straw is supposed to be so tightly packed it does not catch fire. ''It's like trying to light a phone book,'' the 59-year-old grazier said.

The angus and Murray grey cattle on his 440-hectare property are rotated through paddocks so the pasture can regenerate.

Mr Oliver also spends hundreds of hours a year digging up serrated tussock because he refuses to spray the weed with herbicide. His aim is to put more carbon into the soil and less into the atmosphere.

''There's more life in a teaspoon of decent soil then there are humans on the earth,'' he said. ''There's a microscope down in the shearing shed where we look at the soil.''

Festival co-ordinator Kai Kamada-Laws said 500 people turned up to the first festival five years ago and numbers had easily quadrupled since.

The Canberra Environment Centre is a not-for-profit organisation that teaches people how to grow food sustainably, by using worm farms and aquaponics (fish and vegetables grown in the home).

''We're building kitchen gardens in childcare centres and an eco-therapy garden for mental health patients,'' Ms Kamada-Laws said.