Monday, 4 August 2014

Balance! #farming #conservationists #land

At the moment in Australia, huge tracts of our country are drought declared. At no time since settlement have some areas been de-stocked to the degree that they are today. Farmers are desperately trying to maintain a minimal breeding herd, but for some, even this has proved to be impossible. Some stations have been completely stripped of their herds as it proves impossible for farmers to keep their animals alive. They have been sold off at reduced prices where possible and many that are starving a simply shot where they stand in the ultimate act of mercy by their owners. I know that farmers are pragmatic people but to them, their herds are not only their livelihood, they care for their animals as well. To have to shoot their herd takes an amazing act of courage or an amazing act of desperation. Sadly for many, it is an act of both, as in recent times many have taken their own lives at the end of a gun after destroying their herds.

Our farmers are a stoic lot. They go about their business under harsh Australian conditions with very little support. There are no subsidies in this country. They farm under non-protectionist policies and are told to compete on a world market where other governments subsidize their primary producers to the hilt. Our farmers have among the world's best farming practices. They are efficient, they are environmentally aware and, if given a fair, go they are profitable. This fair go includes not only the hand dealt to them by the weather, the price for their produce in the market place, the costs imposed on them by essential services but, the support from an urbanized population.

It is probably fair to say that the average urban Aussie has absolutely no idea where the food (and we have quality food in this country) comes from. They have no idea that as they sleep in their doona cocoons with the sun rising, in vast tracts of the countryside, farmers have been at work for hours going about the business they do best - growing food. To them, milk comes from a carton, meat in a nitrogen filled bubble pack in the supermarket, fruit and vegetables from bins at the market. They have no idea how this produce actually arrived at their supermarket, let alone how it grows or where it grows. This is slowly changing with the advent of community gardens within our cities but we have a long way to go before the average Aussie understands exactly how and where there food actually comes from and the calibre of people who farm this great country.

To many environmentalists the farmers have been the enemy and they have done their darnedest to destroy these keepers of our land. Our farmers are the ones who combat feral pigs, woody weeds,wild dogs and feral cats. Introduced pests are not their only problem, as our beloved kangaroo that rises to plague proportions during good seasons, eats out their meagre supply of grass during dry times, and dingoes eat their livestock. When they try to control these factors that mean the difference as to whether or not they make a living, they are deamonized. This is from city dwelling idealists that have never set foot off the asphalt. Farmers look after their soils, their land, their ecosystems, as that is their livelihood. Farmers are Australia's first environmentalists and as such deserve the support of each and every Australian.

The support services in rural ares are poor to say the least.The women must leave to have their babies, the medical services are sparse (the doctors who service these areas are as tireless and as amazing as their patients), and psychological services non-existent. You may say that is fair enough in Australia's vast inland. But, I am talking about rural Australia in general - East Coast, West Coast and anywhere in between. It is no wonder that the mortality rate for rural Australia is much higher than that of their city cousins.

We as a nation, from government through to the man on the street, need to give our farmers the support they deserve. They very rarely ask for support.  Not because they don't need it, but because they are a proud lot who love what they do. Believe me, they would not do it without this extraordinary love for the land. If nothing more, than the integrity of our food supply, is motivation for looking out for our farmers, we need to embrace these hard working, increasingly marginalized people. So, next time you sit down to a meal, give thanks to our farmers. If they need a hand up in difficult times do not be afraid to put your hand in your pocket and help out. It may well be a life or death difference.

This is a harsh land with a generous heart. Make yours the same! 

Give our farmers a fair go!

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