I debated with myself whether to write this post, I don’t really see She Sows Seeds as a place for political banter, nor is it one of those current affairs, newsworthy blogs*. I simply like to bake yummy things, fluff some cushions and crochet in front of the fire.
I can’t not say something about the shamozzle that has become Australian politics. If nothing else, blogging gives me a platform and a voice, and I like having a voice. To be blunt, I am embarrassed. Embarrassed to be an Australian, where this has become our political landscape, this is our reality. What a shame. My mum would send them outside and tell them to sort it out and not come back in until it was done and dusted. I don’t want to go into the in’s and out’s of the leadership spill, lots of other bloggers will do a far better job than this little farmers wife sitting in a farmhouse in rural South Australia.
There are a few things that I do want to say, things that relate to me, my farmer husband, our life and our livelihood. This weeks political atmosphere has got me thinking, things I’ve been thinking for a long while but have finally sat down to talk about it. As it stands, Australia is currently without a Minister for Agriculture after Joe Ludwig stood down. The agricultural industry is in no-man’s land. I am absolutely sick and tired of Australian farmers not being valued or respected to the manner which they are entitled. Yesterday I was listening to ABC radio, as I do. Dick Smith was being interviewed. Love him or hate him he has at least tried to pump some life into Australian agriculture, he at least tries to support our farmers. His company is set-up similar to Paul Newman’s food company – all profits go to charity or back to the community. Dick said yesterday he already has enough money. His Australian owned tomato sauce, using 100% Australian grown fruit, has a meagre 1.6% of the market. Coles called him last week and told him they wouldn’t be able to put it on their shelves anymore. When he asked why, he was told people simply would not pay the extra 30 cents for his product when US megabrand Heinz had pride of place on shelving. Dick made a point which rang in my ears…
“Lots of people can’t afford the extra 30 cents. I understand that. But lots of people can.”
Lots of people can. That’s just the thing. We can, and we do, pay a bit extra for Australian grown, owned and packed food. It astounds me in this culture of foodie obsession, farmers market this and homegrown veggies that, people will still reach for the Californian oranges, they will still buy the Italian tomatoes. Are people absolutely stupid?! Scary thing is I think I know the answer to that question. The part that really infuriates me is that it’s these same people who are filling their shopping trolleys with imported, cheap food that will spout that ‘oh yes we need to support our farmers, they work so hard’. YES – we work hard, so bloody hard, harder than you will ever know, for little to no gain. But it’s easy for people to say these things but have no real concept of us – real people, with real jobs and real lives.
My family farm in Gippsland** produces Golden Delights, a Woolworths specific ‘brand’ of potatoes. Last night on Facebook I noticed a post on a page which I ‘like’ – the Delight Potatoes Facebook page posted a photo of freshly dug spuds telling their ‘likers’ that they are available within 48 hours after being harvested. I know this to be true. I’ve been the one organising those trucks to do exactly that, get to the markets, get to Mr Woolworths, over hell or high water. The produce industry is intense, cut-throat, hair-pulling and hair-raising, crazy at times and depressing at others. It’s high drama, low lows, high stakes and a lot of people pleasing. And still people commented that this 48 hour turnaround was surely not the case, and even if it were the case, the potatoes were too expensive anyway and they would not be purchasing them. I’m sorry?! I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Sometimes you want to shake people really hard. Do you know what has gone into growing those potatoes? Do you know how many months ago their seed was sourced, they were planted, the grower spent literally days of tractor work away from their families to nurture and love and grow them in beautiful soil and handled them ever so carefully, they were graded to the highest of specifications because of Mr Woolworths high attention to detail, all because YOU and your high standards have an unrealistic expectation of what your food should ‘look’ like. And still you will not buy it, will not support Australian farmers, because you say it’s too expensive?! Where do you think the majority of that money goes that you fork out for your ‘expensive’ potatoes? How much do you think it costs to GROW that potato? To get it to even sit amongst all those other imported vegetables in the supermarket and for you to turn your nose up at it? Perhaps people really are that stupid.
I’ve had an absolute gutful. Your choices in what you feed your family affect real people. I fear that the Australian agricultural industry is not treading water, we’re drowning, and fast.
Wake up Australia, it’s everywhere.
Windsor Farms is in voluntary administration.
Spring Gully Foods is in a similar position.
Dairy farmers are getting paid a pittance for their milk, whilst cost of production skyrockets and Coles offers $1/litre milk.
Do not even get me started on the absolute tragedy of the northern cattle market due to live export bans.
SPC Ardmona has slashed the contracts of orchardists in the Goulburn Valley, it’s no longer viable to can Australian fruit, growers are bulldozing and burning generations old fruit trees.
Perfectly good, producing, viable fruit trees. The world has gone mad.
My husband is from a lamb and dairying background, with a deep love for livestock and the beef cattle industry with a bit of cropping thrown in too. I’m off a potato and prime lamb farm with a produce trading family business. We live and breathe agriculture. This is our life and our reality. The sooner the Australian public realises this the better. We dream of raising a family on the land, like we were – another generation of producers in this country, born and bred with stock, dust, rain, soil running through their veins. Lately though we have been shaking our heads and looking uncertainly to the future. What sort of agricultural industry will our children and grandchildren be faced with? It doesn’t just scare and worry me, it makes me so damn angry…because it’s all preventable.
It’s all about choice. So please, please, choose wisely. A farmer will thank you for it.
* I promise this will be a very rare soapbox ranting blog post. Back to fluffing cushions and baking cakes next week.
** These photos are mainly of farming in Gippsland, taken in 2011 when we lived and worked there.