What is it?
The competition is a community-based soils project that is open to all landholders right across Australia. It does not matter what level of soil knowledge they have. Anyone can get involved and a Regional competition can be run by a Legal Entity such as a Landcare Network or Regional Body in your local area. All the guidelines on how to set up and run a soil skills competition in your area along with information on who can take part and what is involved is detailed in the Competition Pack found on the website. The National Soil Skills Competition has been developed under a Creative Commons License so it is free to use.
The competition is based on a fundamental set of soil skills required by all farmers, graziers and land managers. These include skills in assessing soil health in the field, assessing soil health using a soil test from a lab and skills in determining soil fertility. It also includes skills in developing management options to deal with soil issues. The competition involves practising these skills in small “soil teams” of 3 people. Then the teams get to compete against each other to see who has the best soil skills!
The aim of the competition is to help you gain more skills in understanding and managing your soil. At the same time it provides a chance to for farmers and land managers to share soils knowledge across their community. All while having fun!
So if you farm sugar cane in North Queensland, apples in Victoria, wheat in South Australia, vegetables in Tassie, mangoes in the NT, grapes in WA or graze sheep in NSW and you care about your soil, then this competition is for you. It is even for people who just love growing things in their backyard!
Why have it?
2015 is the International Year of the Soil. Soils are important to everyone in Australia and to our nation’s prosperity. So we would like to highlight the importance of soils to all Australians.
At the same time we believe many Australian farmers are doing a great job in managing their soils. And many want to do even better! So this competition is a chance for everyone to practise and share their soils skills and learn new ones. It is also an opportunity to keep connected with others in the community who share the same soils interest. Finally there is guaranteed fun and prizes to win!
The key objectives of the National Soil Skills Competition include:
- Highlighting and promoting the immense value of soils to our nation’s prosperity, agriculture and environment.
- Creating and/or strengthening networks of people within the community who care about soils.
- Providing a platform for sharing local soils knowledge amongst community members.
- Building capacity amongst the community for assessing, managing and improving soils through a fun community-based event that helps people build soil skills in an inclusive way.
Who can get involved?
If you are a primary producer, landholder, Landcare member or a high school student and you want to practice and improve your soil skills then you can get involved. It does not matter how much or little you know about your soil. To take part you just need to register to take part with the Regional Organisation that is hosting an event in your area.
In any area the competition needs to be run by a legal entity such as a Landcare Network, Catchment Authority or Regional Body. So if you think your organisation might want to organise and run a regional Soil Skills Competition then check if you are eligible and just get started.
To help run regional competitions we also need soil professionals and agronomists who can contribute and help run the competition in their area to register their interest. People are needed to run the soil skills workshops as well as be soil judges on the Competition Days. Part of the objective of this competition is tapping into and sharing the soils knowledge that many people all over Australia!
How it works
A regional Soil Skills Competition can be run over about three months. The main stages are:
STEP 1: ORGANISING
Any Landcare Network, government agency, educational college or Regional Body can host a regional competition. You just need to register to run an event and sign an Agreement to use the National Soil Skills Framework as outlined in the Competition Pack and in the Terms & Conditions. As a Regional Host Organisation you then need to plan your resources and project and then advertise the competition in your area through your networks. You will need to organise funding from your own resources and/or grants or better yet, get local business involved as sponsors and to provide prizes. The competition is based around running 2 Soil Skills workshops to help participants learn and practise the skills that are part of the competition. A Competition Day is then held a few weeks later. There is plenty of support resources in the Competition Pack to help Regional Host Organisations plan the delivery of the project in their area.
STEP 2 : REGISTRATION OF PARTICIPANTS
Interested landholders, high schools and Landcare members then need to register with their Regional Host Organisation to take part in the Competition. A Registration Form is provided in the Competition Pack. Participants can then be sent a Soil Skills Competition Schedule so they can lock in dates in their calendar. Ideally participants can get together with friends or neighbours to participate. The competition is run using “Soil Teams” of 3 people so people can nominate their team whilst registering but this is not compulsory. There will be plenty of time during the first of the Soil Skills Workshops to form a team if participants need to.
STEP 3 : SOIL SKILLS WORKSHOPS
Participants then take part in two hands-on, practical soil skills workshops to practice their soil skills and get their team ready for the competition. These are usually done about 2-4 weeks apart. During these days a regional soils trainer will help the teams practise the core skills that will be judged on Competition day. During these workshops participants get a chance to share soils knowledge with each other and form a ‘Soil Team”. If participants want to practise their skills more before the Competition Day then further soil skills workshops can be arranged. Detailed resources and guidelines on the Soil Skills used in the Competition, for both participants and Soil Trainers, are provided in the Competition Pack and on the website.
STEP 4: COMPETITION DAY
When everyone has completed the Soil Skills Workshops and are ready to go then the regional host runs a Soil Skills Competition Day at a central venue where everyone can put their skills to the test in a fun environment. A range of soils from the district are brought in and all the Soil Teams get to practise their soil skills. At least one or maybe two Soil Judges will be needed to determine the winning Soil Team on the day. Networking and prizes wrap up the day. It is suggested that Host Organisations should aim for some great prizes and to make a social day of it with a BBQ as well.
STEP 5 : STATE/NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS
The NSSC organisers are aiming to run State and National competitions in the future so that winning teams from each region can go on to a state/national championship. That way we can see who are the best soil teams in Australia and celebrate their skills.