Revolutionising Organic Agriculture: The Burnham Family’s Journey of Innovation and Community at Bonnie Doone.

Revolutionising Organic Agriculture: The Burnham Family's Journey of Innovation and Community at Bonnie Doone.

In the rolling landscapes just outside the picturesque town of Monto in Queensland, there exists a place called ‘Bonnie Doone.’ It’s not to be confused with the namesake from the movie The Castle, though in some ways, the story of Bonnie Doone and its stewards, Carly and Grant Burnham, bears a striking resemblance to the lovable Kerrigans. Just as the Kerrigans cherish their close-knit family, values, and community, so too do Carly, Grant, and their family. Their story is one of warmth, resilience, and an unwavering commitment to principles that extend far beyond the boundaries of their 8000-hectare organic beef cattle property.

My recent visit to Bonnie Doone left me both invigorated and inspired. I arrived weary from the drive, but after spending a few hours with Carly and Grant, I departed with newfound energy and enthusiasm. What unfolded during my time at Bonnie Doone was nothing short of remarkable—a story of transformation, innovation, and an unwavering dedication to cutting-edge organic agriculture.

The Burnham family’s connection to Bonnie Doone is a rich tapestry woven with agricultural tradition and community engagement. Grant’s familial roots in the region stretch back for decades, while Carly brings a fresh perspective, influenced by her background in retail management and a Master’s in Human Psychodynamics. Together, they’ve created a unique blend of traditional farming practices, modern grazing principles, and business acumen. Their journey has been one marked by evolution, driven by a deep awareness of the need for change.

Their introduction to Resource Consulting Services (RCS) marked a pivotal moment in their lives. Terry McCosker, the founder of RCS, played a significant role in their transformation. Under RCS’ guidance and programs like RCS’ ExecutiveLink (EL), Carly and Grant embraced a structured platform for learning that challenged and supported them, ultimately leading to the practical application of innovative business and environmental strategies.

Under Carly and Grant’s stewardship, Bonnie Doone has evolved into a global leader in advanced organic agriculture. Their transition to organic farming was a deliberate move, aligned with their commitment to environmental health and ethical food production. They adopted advanced agricultural practices that prioritise soil health, biodiversity, and ecological land use, resulting in the sequestration of an impressive amount of greenhouse gas emissions in their soils.

The Burnham Family | Photo credit @davinabambrickphotography 

Carly noted, “Returning home post-study, I was determined to honour our legacy while embracing modern farming practices.” The numbers tell an incredible story: Bonnie Doone sequestered 126,222 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in their soils over five years from 2016-2021 with the guidance of RCS and CarbonLink. These numbers are more than just statistics; they signify a commitment to not only feed and improve the soil but also to help reduce CO2 in the atmosphere by trapping it underground. In fact, Bonnie Doone had not only reduced CO2 emissions but also made their organic beef carbon negative, burying 6.6t of CO2 for every tonne of livestock, while adding 47,000 tonnes of soil organic carbon and increasing soil water capacity by 283,000 tonnes.

Recognising the importance of community connection, the Burnhams launched Bonnie Doone Beef in 2014, focusing on direct-to-consumer marketing to bridge the gap between rural and urban communities. They also introduced environmental Agri-tourism, offering visitors an immersive experience that fosters an understanding of leading-edge farming practices.

Education has been a cornerstone of their journey, with Carly and Grant actively engaging in workshops and pursuing further educational opportunities. Grant reflects, “RCS’ methods were eye-opening. They offered us practical tools and strategies to rethink our business model.” The Burnham’s journey has been shaped by the influence of RCS, and now Boone Doone stands as a beacon for current and future generations, illuminating the path toward a more natural and connected agricultural world.

Looking ahead, Carly and Grant envision an agricultural future ripe for innovation and driven by technology. “We’ve started to see ourselves as custodians of the land, focusing on soil health, grass production and leading-edge practices”, says Carly. Their goal is to continue evolving, contributing to a positive agricultural landscape, and mentoring future leaders in the field. “We wanted to be a catalyst for change, to show that proven farm management principles that focus on a balanced, harmonious ecology, is not just beneficial for the environment but also viable as a business,” explains Grant.

The Burnham family is not only remarkable for their achievements but also for their humility and graciousness, extending a warm welcome to all who visit Bonnie Doone. Their story is a source of inspiration for us all, a reminder of the potential for positive change in agriculture and the enduring importance of values, community, and innovation in shaping our future.

Words by Chris Eccleston, Chief Marketing Officer RCS Australia. 

Learn more about Bonnie Doone by visiting their website here 

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