Cotton Rivercare Champion Shows Us The Biodiversity On Cotton Farms

Meet the snake watching, possum finding kids living on a modern cotton farm.

27/07/2016 8:18 AM AEST | Updated 27/07/2016 2:01 PM AEST

The water rat's name is Templeton, says seven-year-old Edward, as though it's completely normal to share your front garden with a water rat.

Edward and his siblings Finn, Wilson and Elsie live on a cotton farm in southern Queensland where it's not uncommon to find a green tree snake on your way to art class or watch a peregrine falcon circling the riparian areas.

They will tell you how to find a possum hollow (look for their poo, and then check nearby trees for scratch marks, says Finn) and they love nothing more on the weekend than taking the 4X4 down to the river and flipping logs to see what critters are beneath them.

Anne Palfreyman
When Edward and Finn saw a green tree snake on the way to art class, they stopped to admire it.

Cotton farms have not always been associated with great biodiversity.

Dad and farmer Mark Palfreyman said there was a time when cotton farmers were seen as environmental vandals.

"Farming in general and the cotton industry to some extent alienated itself from environmental issues for a while," Palfreyman said.

"It always had this bad rap because of chemical use and water use and I think it was probably justified for a long time but it's come full circle."

Anne Palfreyman
A pair of brolgas on the Palfreyman's farm.

"Genetic modification has made cotton impervious to insects, and now to a large extent it's chemical free, or at least needs no more than any other crop."

"For the most part, farmers are really in tune with what their property can handle."

Palfreyman has been named a Cotton RiverCare Champion in a new initiative that will see the family blog about the biodiversity they find on their farm and discuss responsible management of river areas.

It's an extra few acres where you can still ride along through the gum trees. It stops erosion and the kids love it. I see a lot of value in that.

He said the balance between the environment and the business was in his mind for all decisions.

"My challenge is to know where to draw the line between farming and the environment. It's possible to plant right up to the edge of the watercourses but I tend to try and leave a bit of a corridor there.

"It's an extra few acres where you can still ride along through the gum trees. It stops erosion and the kids love it. I see a lot of value in that."

Anne Palfreyman
This is Templeton the water rat. He lives in a lake by the Palfreyman's house.

Templeton's happy with the arrangement too.

As Edward says: "He's not our pet, he lives here because he likes it".

More On This Topic