Sustainable Farming Down Under…..a new book by Patrice Newell.

‘Who’s Minding the Farm? In this climate emergency,’ Patrice Newell’s call to arms about the state of our land and what to do about it is heart-felt, thought-provoking and powerful.

Published by Penguin Books

Patrice Newell was born in Adelaide. After careers in modelling, journalism and television, she bought Elmswood farm near Gundy, in the Hunter Valley, New South Wales with her partner Phillip Adams. The farm produces biodynamic olive oil, garlic, honey, soap and beef.

Patrice has dedicated her life to responsible land management and has authored several titles including, Ten Thousand Acres: A love Story, a heartfelt call for sustainable land use; The Olive Grove, her bestselling account of leaving the city for life on the land; The River, a critically acclaimed examination of water- management issues facing rural communities; and Tree to Table: Cooking with Australian Olive Oil.

Patrice Newell

We’re all part of an ecology, living and dying together

Patrice Newell


We call our planet Earth, yet we don’t think much about the earth itself. As a proud dirt farmer, I reckon we should have a Minister for Soil. Not just a Minister for the Environment – we’ve plenty of those, at federal and state levels, and they rarely mention soil. When the UN formulated Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, soil didn’t rate a mention in those either. Yet soil is at the heart of achieving many of those goals, including the elimination of poverty and hunger; and clean water, sanitation and good health. Soil: you’d think it was a dirty word.……

…….Inevitably it was Australia’s pioneers who began the process of the great soil loss – the structural depeletion, the acidification, the compaction and the nutrient loss, in a country whose thin soils didn’t have a lot to begin with.  Habits are hard to break, and those bad habits that started the destruction liner on, but the spread of drug-addicted industrial agriculture in this epoch of agricultural imperialism cannot continue.  It must not be the future.

This is also a book of hope.  Patrice has travelled the world exploring best practice and dedicated her life to understanding what it takes to create a sustainable, and healthy agricultural business. Who’s Minding the Farm? talks about farming for the future and how it will take conscious decisions to manage the land, to build a sustainable, organic alternative to industrialised farming.

In this era of rapid climate change, this vital account of how agriculture can address major issues is an Australian story with global ramifications.  Those living on the land are at the frontline of enormous challenges, from water scarcity and land stewardship to food security and the rural-urban divide.  The devastation of ongoing drought and the crises created by industrial-scale chemically-dependant primary production are discusses and alternatives proposed – along with bold ideas for new sources of energy.

JDGroundswell Question: “Patrice, what are your hopes for the future?”

PATRICE NEWELL Answer: “That we fully appreciate we live in an ecology not an economy.”

EXCERPT FROM WHO’S MINDING THE FARM: ‘Not long after I became a novice farmer, New Zealand feminist, economist and MP Marilyn Waring wrote ‘Counting For Nothing’. The book became my New Testament. In it Waring argued that GDP as currently calculated was dangerous nonsense, because so much work done by women and children and by people living outside the cash economy was unaccounted. (Gender equality is one of the UN’s sustainability goals yet figures in 2018 show that rural women have a long way to go with women only owning 13 per cent of agricultural land globally.) Waring has spent a lifetime arguing with precision and passion about the lunacy of an economic accounting system that doesn’t account properly for nature, but at last is being discussed at the highest level of financial management, academia and politics.’

JDGroundswell Question: “What are your top 5 goals leading towards a sustainable future on the land?”


1. “Most agricultural land is dedicated to animal grazing. Cattle are our biggest Ag sector.  Over grazing – i.e. turning a paddock into a dustbowl – must stop. Some people suggest we’ll need to make it illegal to overgraze but I hope we can simply do the right thing without such laws. Soil needs plants. Without them we’re simply creating a desert.”

2. “Start a conversation whenever you can, i.e. with the staff stacking the veggies in a shop – about where the food you’re buying comes from. People often never know.”

3. “Hilary Clinton and Barnaby Joyce are two politicians who’ve publicly stated that their constituents never ask them about climate change.  Ask your pollies, local, state and federal if they think we’re living in a climate emergency and what are they doing about it?”

4. “Agriculture is the third biggest emitting greenhouse gas sector.  It’s not animals burping that are the problem. People who manage them can be though. Animals fertilise soil and help rebuild ecosystems when they are managed properly. Overgrazing releases CO2 and inorganic fertilisers pollute. Local mixed sustainable organic farms are the ones trying to build biodiversity into their farming system and provide healthy food. Get to know them and support them.”

5. “Don’t fall for the lie that the world can’t produce enough food.  We already do.  We need to stop worrying about it. The problem is that a lot of the food we’re producing is making us sick; the distribution systems are unjust; and we shamefully waste a lot. ‘Neverwastefood’ should be a mantra. Namaste.”

You can follow the life of Patrice’s farm at

“It’s asking but we don’t hear. Land does speak to us without words. We have to listen to know its needs”

Who’s Minding the Farm? In this climate emergency – by Patrice Newell, published by Penguin Viking
Portrait of Patrice Newell