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In my mind, there is no nobler profession than a farmer; particularly in current times.
As the numbers of people living in urban areas increase, so does our disconnect with rural living, farming, and the immense effort that goes into raising animals, growing fresh vegetables, fruit and grains, cotton, wool and timber. Many city dwellers have never set foot on a farm, particularly younger generations. Furthermore, a recent study revealed that almost a third of Australian children think yoghurt comes from plants, while three quarters believe cotton is from animals.
It seems most people are perpetually busy – rushing in and out of supermarkets, stocking up on groceries with little more agenda than discounted prices. Yet behind the scenes of those stocked shelves are the farmers; the forgotten heroes who work long, hard hours under adverse conditions to provide for Australians. Each and every day, the meals we eat are their handy work.
With supermarkets (and consumers) increasing the obsession with cheapest possible prices and picture-perfect produce, farmers are finding it more and more difficult to keep up and maintain a reasonable income, resulting in many farmers walking off the land. They are facing a changing climate that flickers readily between droughts and floods. They’re dealing with a mining boom encroaching on, and toxifying, their land. They are being wedged out by urban sprawl – with Australia’s insatiable appetite for huge houses – encroaching on arable farm land. And with fewer workers willing to get outdoors and do some grunt work, they are facing a shortage of affordable labour, meaning longer and harder hours for themselves.
So why do they do it? As Ian Campbell from Barambah Organics dairy farm said when we spoke to him for our feature on Australian farmers in the current (April/May 2012) issue; “at times we think we should do something else, but then you have a really, really good day”. While Ben Falloon from Taranaki Farm reiterates; “there is just no better office”.