Sustainable Farms

Our mission: To support the improvement of natural asset management on farms in the temperate woodlands, to enhance biodiversity, increase farm profitability and improve farmer wellbeing.

Sustainable Farms is a research and extension initiative based in the Fenner School of Environment and Society at the Australian National University.

Sustainable Farms has been undertaking long-term research studies on farms in the box-gum grassy woodlands of south-eastern Australia for over two decades, one of the largest long-term monitoring studies of its kind. This work means we now have a detailed understanding of the way in which biodiversity responds to management changes on farms.  We work directly with farmers, land managers, Landcare and NRM agencies to build their capacity to improve on-farm natural assets, while supporting sustainable and profitable agriculture.

Outreach, extension and capacity building are essential components of our work, enabling insights gathered in the field to inform our ambitious interdisciplinary research agenda.

The research program includes economics, ecology, spatial science, mental health and social sciences. Since launch in 2018 the project has demonstrated outstanding research productivity, producing 43 papers in peer reviewed journals, and three books.

The evidence we have produced is broadening our understanding of the role that natural assets play for healthy farms, healthy farmers and healthy profits. Thus, ensuring that farmers and other land managers have access to the best available science to inform on-ground decision making.

Learn more about Sustainable Farms here:

Natural Asset Farming: Building resilient farms and landscapes

Our Natural Asset Farming framework, articulated in Natural Asset Farming: Creating Productive and Biodiverse Farms (2022), provides an approach to sustainable farming that is both accessible and transformative. Healthy natural assets support biodiversity and landscape function, which in turn underpin agricultural production.

This approach reflects the knowledge and experience of the landholders, NRM regional bodies and Landcare groups that have been undertaking restoration on-farms across the wheat sheep belt for more than 20 years.  It is an approach that is relevant across all farming systems and enterprise types. From small, quick projects such as fencing a rocky outcrop, to longer-term investments such as planting a native shelterbelt, natural asset enhancements have something to offer for all farms and farming systems.

Regional expertise and partnerships

Our team of expert ecologists based in regional NSW and Victoria conduct long-term biodiversity surveys on farms to understand the role of natural assets. They live and work in regional communities, sharing their ecological knowledge with the community, and learning directly from farmers who are undertaking natural asset management projects on their farms.

Partnerships are central to our work and we work closely with a range of groups and organisations in NSW and Victoria. These include Landcare, farmer and community groups, Catchment Management Authorities and NSW Local Land Services, and othersseeking to support transitions to sustainable agriculture.

Farmer partners

Our work relies on innovative farmers who have undertaken natural asset management projects over many years, and have shared their experiences with us and each other.

In particular, the twenty years of long-term monitoring on farms in the region would not have been possible without the landholders who enable our team to visit and survey sites on their properties.

Extension and outreach

Essential to our work is ensuring that people managing agricultural land have access to the best available science to inform their decisions. Farm field days are an essential part of this, bringing together farmers, our ecologists and researchers, and people from partner organisations. Field days provide an opportunity to share knowledge, access the latest science to inform decision making, and learn from each other.

Sustainable Farms leadership team

Sustainable Farms Director Michelle Young leads the strategic direction, outreach and impact activities.  Lead Scientist Professor David Lindenmayer is delivering a cross-disciplinary research program in partnership with collaborators at the ANU and other Universities and continues to deliver the long-term monitoring studies on farms. Find out more about the Sustainable Farms team here.

Funders and partners

Sustainable Farms is driven by key strategic goals of the ANU: interdisciplinary research and translation of that research to real-world outcomes. Our work relies on the world-leading expertise of ANU researchers in ecology, mental health, economics and social science, and our project coordination team is based at the ANU campus in Canberra.

We also thank our major funding partners, the Australian Government's National Landcare Program, the Ian Potter Foundation and a number of other philanthropic organisations and industry groups. We thank all our funders for their commitment to Sustainable Farms, and continue to seek partners in industry, finance and government.


Sustainable Farms Strategic Plan 2022-2025

Sustainable Farms project area map

Ten Ways to Improve Natural Assets on a Farm

Website links

Sustainable Farms:

About us:

News: BirdCast nets ANU scientists a Eureka Prize:

Sustainable Farms BirdCast tool: