Rural round-up

January 8, 2018

They need to be able to have a life’: Mother’s plea after farmer son’s death – Kelly Dennett:

Last month Gail Harris spent a night with her sons watching movies, cooking dinner, and listening to them play video games while she dozed on the couch.

As her youngest, Colby Harris, left the Hamilton home for the Huntly farm he worked on, she said a sleepy goodbye. Opening her eyes shortly afterward she realised Colby was still there, watching her.

“I said, ‘Are you okay, Son?’ And he said, ‘Yup’.”

It was the last conversation they had. The only inkling of something amiss. . . 

Westland Milk – closing the gap on dairy’s big brother – Jamie Gray:

Hokitika-based Westland Milk fell behind its far larger competitor, Fonterra, in 2016. Under new chief executive Toni Brendish, the co-op is closing the gap.
Extreme volatility in world dairy markets has taken its toll on companies around the world, and Westland Milk has been no exception.

The co-op turned in a $17 million loss over 2016/17 and its payout — at $5.18 per kg of milksolids — was the lowest of all the Kiwi dairy companies. . . 

Farming for the next generation – Michael Grove:

The age of acceleration
For anyone wondering what the focus of this year’s Oxford Farming Conference might be, it was The Archers provided an answer just before Christmas.

Brian Aldridge asked his step-son, Adam, whether he might be attending the conference. Adam replied wearily. ‘I think I’ll give it a miss this year. It’s probably going to be all about Brexit. I get enough of that at home.’

I know how he feels.

I suspect everyone in this room knows how he feels.

And, of course, I’ll say something in a moment about the specific opportunities and challenges for agriculture on leaving the European Union. . .

Yes we have no bananas but monoculture wasn’t so easy to avoid – Steven Savage:

In 1923, Frank Silver and Irving Cohn published a song that became a major hit for the Billy Jones Orchestra, with the signature line “Yes, we have no bananas; we have no bananas today.” It turned out to be sadly prophetic as, in the 1950s, the banana trees that supplied the entire global banana export business were wiped out by a soil-borne fungal disease known as “Panama Wilt.”

The industry at that time was almost entirely based on a single banana cultivar called “Gros Michel” (meaning “Big Mike”), and it was susceptible to infection by a strain of fungus called Fusarium. Once the soil of a given plantation was contaminated with that strain, any Gros Michel tree grown there would soon die.

By good fortune, a different banana cultivar that was being grown in the South Seas was able to substitute for Gros Michel as a commercial line, and this new “Cavendish” cultivar became the new banana of international commerce, as it remains to this day. . .

Speech to the Oxford Farming Conference – Mark Lynas:

Five years ago, almost to this very day, I stood before you and offered an apology for my earlier anti-GMO activism. Today I want to do something different.

Whereas my 2013 speech was something of a declaration of war against my former colleagues in the anti-GMO scene, today I want to offer an olive branch, to map out the contours of a potential peace treaty.

For me it’s been a very intense five years. The 2013 speech really did change my life in ways I had never anticipated. I was accused of having been the global founder of the anti-GMO movement, and my stance was compared with being a rapist by one well known activist.

I don’t like to run away from a fight, so since then I’ve devoted myself pretty much full time to the GMO issue. I’ve been to numerous countries in Africa and Asia and met farmers, scientists, activists and others on both sides of this very contentious debate. . . 


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