Two things first: One, the Ekka is a LOT more than animal shows, yummy food and fun rides. And two, farmers””the heroes behind Ekka””do a LOT more than just farming and harvesting.
The month of August means the largest and most-awaited ten-day annual event in Queensland. The Royal Queensland Show, or “The Ekka” as it’s most commonly known, showcases life and production in the Sunshine state. Since 1876, this classic Queensland tradition has been bringing thousands of visitors, families, and schools from across Australia to gather around the heart of Brisbane as the country comes and meets the city.
This year’s Ekka marked the 139th show filled with competitions, a hodgepodge of foods and fresh produce and family activities and entertainment. Indeed, for generations and generations, Ekka has been a huge Queensland (or even Australian) tradition and held a special place in our hearts.
But wait”¦What is it really about? How has it gone about and who’s behind this momentous event? We want to make sure that we are celebrating for a reason (and definitely the right reason) and educating our youngsters and future generations about what Ekka really is about.
Let’s rewind back to the time before Ekka became about animal shows and fun rides.
Who’s Behind The Ekka?
The Royal National Agricultural and Industrial Association of Queensland (RNA), which owns and operates the Brisbane Showgrounds, has always been the mastermind behind the prodigious exhibit (thus, the modern name Ekka).
Yes, the biggest and probably the merriest event in Queensland is hosted by a group of agriculturalists. If that’s too technical or doesn’t ring a bell to you””they are a group of farmers!
Farmers are a lot more than hardworking planters and sowers of crops that wear straw hats under the heat of the sun (as kids nowadays draw them). They are heroes of our environment who wish to educate us and the future generations. The organisation’s charter is to “celebrate and champion the essential role agriculture plays in the everyday lives of Queenslanders” not only in our kitchens and on our dining tables but in our lives and environment in general.
The Reason Behind Ekka
In the early days of the Ekka, the main purpose was to show off many agricultural and industrial exhibits such as newly invented devices and systems that not only increase our food and materials production but also preserve and take care of our environment. 129, 000 Australian farmers are environmental stewards, actively owning, managing and caring for 60 percent of Australia’s land mass. With that being said, farmers are at the leading edge of putting out environmental outcomes on behalf of the Australian community. They are constantly researching and innovating ways to make their livelihood more efficient, sustainable and environmentally friendly.
Here are just some of the interesting ways Aussie farmers are being environment heroes:
1. The Livestock industry has reduced greenhouse gas emissions
Australia’s livestock industry produces approximately 10% of our nation’s total greenhouse gas emissions gas that traps heat and makes the Earth warmer. In partnership with the federal government, the industry has been researching ways to reduce these emissions such as finding breeds of cattle that produce less methane and using a by-product from wine making.
2. Grain growers have decreased fuel usage, conserve soil moisture and decrease erosion
Grain growers have been adopting new technologies and better seed varieties to improve crop productivity even through dry seasons while also preserving the environment. By way of illustration, they have adopted zero tillage farming that has enabled farmers to decrease fuel usage, conserve much-needed moisture, thus decreasing soil erosion.
3. Rice harvesters help rivers and use water efficiently
According to Ricegrowers Association (RGA), Australian growers produce more rice per hectare than anywhere else in the world as the industry has the capacity to produce more than 1 million tonnes of rice per year. However, through proactive environmental management, the Australian rice industry leads the world in water use efficiency, using 50% less water than the global average. It was also the first to run a project returning water to the environment through the Living Murray initiative, delivering more than 12,000 megalitres back into the river system.
4. Cotton farmers are improving soil health, saving water, and preserving habitats
Australia is the 3rd largest exporter of cotton around the world and is a major commodity in Queensland””with more than 600 cotton farms which 42 percent of these lands are dedicated to native vegetation and habitats to many bird species and invertebrates. Cotton farmers are also using a combination of modern technology and traditional knowledge in improving soil health, fencing off remnant vegetation, saving water and managing pests.
5. Dairy farmers using renewable energy
Dairy is Australia’s 3rd largest rural industry yet around 40 percent of the dairy farms in the country are using renewable energy sources such as solar or wind power. Farmers have been persistently looking for ways to reduce energy use in their milk sheds by using more energy-efficient equipment and off-peak timers.
6. Sugar cane growers reducing fertilisers and pesticides in the Great Barrier Reef
The Australian sugarcane industry is the world’s 3rd largest raw sugar supplier and is recognised for its technology and sustainable farming practices. As a case in point, Australian sugarcane growers use more precise pesticide applications, reducing the amount of pollution from herbicides by 95% and at the same time improving the quality of water that flows directly to the Great Barrier Reef.
You see, Ekka is not just a good time to enjoy with your family and kids. Next time you visit Ekka make sure the heroes behind this great and significant event will be recognized and thanked for.