Farmers’ stories and silver lining

June 13, 2018

Farmers are fighting back against the anti-farmer, anti farming rhetoric.

The antis are well organised and articulate, but social media gives a voice to those like Farmer Tom:

 

I’m one of those ‘industrial farmers’ that practice ‘intensive farming’; people hate me. I’m also a conservation farmer (#glyphosateisvital) and am part of a family farm; people now love me. Confusing isn’t it? Anyway, here’s what I just wrote on another matter – it makes enlightening reading I think (/hope)…

In the past generation we’ve planted 14 football pitches of trees and woodland, we’ve sown 30 football pitches of pollen & nectar mix for butterflies and bees (a RIOT of colour from April to November), we provide 10 football pitches of mixed seed crops to help overwintering birds get through the ‘hungry gap’ at the end of winter, we’ve restored and maintained 20 ponds and we regularly see snipe across the farm, but especially on our managed wetlands. We’ve seen marked increases in brown hare, skylark, red kites, buzzards, sparrow hawk, hobby, and three species of owl make use of our specialised owl boxes. We have seen earthworm populations increase significantly, and we have managed grassland for rare orchids. Our low-input grazing system mimics the movement of wild herds and we have seen five species of deer increasing across the farm. Our crowning glory in my opinion is the reappearance of the stunning kingfisher, however the prevalence of grey partridges or lapwings or any number of redlist species divides opinion as to the title of greatest success story, and a recent visit from an insect expert revealed a rich insect fauna.

We’ve also grown food for 65 million left wing, right wing, centrists, nazis, and communists, for vegetarians, flexitarians, vegans, and omnivores, for black and white, rich and poor, for women and for those who identify as women, for man and beast, for princes and paupers, for criminals, creatives, and crazies, for townies and bumpkins, for slave and free, for erudite and for those who don’t even know what that means, for immigrants, supremacists, for asylum-seekers, for liberals, free thinkers, and for those who read the Daily Mail, the Guardian, the Telegraph, and for those who can’t read. Not bad for a little patch of England eh?

Farmers; keeping you alive since history began, and stewarding our land since conservation was an elaborate way of preserving fruit for application to buttered toast.

Another Farmer, Mark Warren tells the story of going from peasant farmer to present farmer:

Mark Warren was just 24 years old, with a ticket to London and The Big OE in his pocket, when he got the call to take over the old family station in the steep hill country at Waipari in the Hawkes Bay.

“My father said, ‘Oi! The manager’s gone. All the staff are gone. You’re going to have to take over…Make it snappy.’ That was that. I went away for two weeks and came home…to face the music”. . . 

In spite of dyslexia, Mark has published his story in a book: Many a Muddy Morning: Stories From a Life Offroad and on the Land,

And Jim Hopkins sees a silver lining in the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak:

The emotional impact on farmers with animals affected by Mycoplasma bovis may have the unintended side effect of changing the public’s perception of farming.

Rural Raconteur Jim Hopkins spoke to The Country’s Jamie Mackay saying urban New Zealand will be viewing farmers with much more empathy and sympathy as a result of M. bovis.

Hopkins’ speech was so impassioned and succinct we thought we’d let him do the talking to end today’s show.

“This occurred to me a week or two back when I was listening to you [Mackay] talking to a cocky in South Canterbury who wept on air … I’ve seen farmers on television in the same awfully stressed situation and you feel their pain. But the thing that did occur to me was, this is the first time for two years, that I have seen the other side of farming.

For two years or more, a gullible brainwashed urban media that sort of picks up all the green garbage and feeds it into its audience … has presented farmers as heartless calf-killers and creek polluters … suddenly we see people who are genuinely grief-stricken at the loss of animals, not as economic units but as members of the family, as part of their lives, as individuals.

It occurred to me when I saw that and heard it, I thought – suddenly, an urban audience is seeing farming and farmers in a new and vulnerable and emotional and caring and compassionate light and that’s got to be, long term, a good thing.

It’s a shift in perspective and perception in my view and it’s one that … everyone involved in the sector knows … that farmers … care, but that isolated, insulated urban audience that thinks milk comes in bottles or containers -they haven’t seen that and now they have and I think that’s a fantastic thing.” 

You can hear Jim full speech by clicking on the link above.

The disease is a very high price to pay for an improved perception, and it will be cold comfort for those directly affected, but good can come from bad.


Rural round-up

October 28, 2016

Capturing excess water a no-brainer – Steve Wyn-Harris:

One of the current Hawke’s Bay regional councillors who has strongly opposed the Ruataniwha Dam and, party to many comments regarding farming, has as his guiding thought when considering council matters: ‘wisdom is old men planting trees under whose shade they will never sit’.

I like it very much and although not claiming to be wise I have planted some 50,000 trees on my own property and continue to plant as I near 60 so certainly won’t be sitting under the shade of these latter trees.

My own guiding principal throughout my farming career has been ‘live life as though you may die tomorrow but farm as though you may live forever’. . .

Southland woman published book on being a woman in a man’s world in the rural sector –  Briar Babington:

Women in the workplace have come a long way in the past 50 years, but it’s those experience that are the framework for one Southland woman’s latest book.

Dawn Andrews was born and bred in Gore and has put her life experience to pen and paper and published a book outlining the challenges of being a working woman in the rural sector.

“It’s a book that I’ve thought about writing for a long, long time,” she said.

The book is an autobiography of sorts, spurred on my Andrews’ passion to make sure history was being well documented, providing something for the future generations to look back on. . .

5000 lambs  ‘click the ticket’ in US supermarkets – Kate Taylor:

A Hawke’s Bay sheep farm is the first in the world to be certified for its pasture-only system. Kate Taylor reports on what makes this Central Hawke’s Bay station stand out from the rest.

Visitors to Mark Warren’s hill country farm get to witness at first-hand the skills of an expert four-wheel driver. A spectacular view from the top of Waipari Station is their reward for taking what seems to be a direct line up to the sky.

Perceived danger aside, Warren is skilled and confident on the side of a hill and doesn’t stop talking about the great advantages New Zealand farming has to offer.

Warren and his partner Julie Holden live on the 1300ha station (1000ha effective) in the Omakere district in coastal Central Hawke’s Bay that is managed for them by Nigel Hanan. . .

Taranaki road transport boss says bobby calf video is positive – Sue O’Dowd:

A video purporting to show poor handling of bobby calves being loaded on to stock trucks has been rubbished by Taranaki road transport boss Tom Cloke. 

Cloke said the footage released by Farmwatch this week failed to show the truck crates contained rubber mats to cushion the calves’ landing when they were rolled aboard. 

He wants the public to realise the bobby calves weren’t being rolled onto a hard grating. . . 

Fonterra assesses impact of big drop in milk production on future sales – Fiona Rotherham

 (BusinessDesk)Fonterra Cooperative Group is assessing the impact of a big drop in milk production this month on its contract book and future production plans.

In its latest global dairy update, the world’s biggest dairy exporter said daily milk volumes across the central and upper North Island were down significantly in the early part of October due to the impact of wetter than normal spring weather and this has continued, particularly in the key dairying region of Waikato where daily milk volumes are down around 14 percent compared to last year.

Given that milk collections are now at the peak of the season, they are not expected to recover and will flow into the balance of the season, it said. . . 

Differences between Australian and NZ meat industries – Allan Barber:

Information obtained from Sydney based consultancy agInfo shows a very high degree of procurement competition for domestic market supply, especially for beef; this situation has been driven by a tightening of livestock supply combined with aggressive pursuit of retail market share by Woolworths.

It illustrates how the dynamics of the Australian market differ from here, although the structure is quite similar: retail butcheries competing with two major supermarket chains and a larger proportion of stock destined for export. But the Australian domestic market represents more than 30% of total livestock production compared with only 10-15% in New Zealand where mid-winter is the only time of year when domestic production exerts greater influence.

Australian beef producers are receiving what appears to be an unsustainable price at the moment, measured at 69% of the retail price which compares with 56% in October 2015, 44% in 2014 and 36% in 2013. . . 

Farmers need to be vigilant around fixed rate mortgages:

Market commentators are indicating with 80% certainty the Reserve Bank of New Zealand will lower the official cash rate by 25 basis points next month and then it will begin to stabilise. This is leading many rural borrowers to consider if now is the time to be looking at fixing rates. Head of Corporate Agribusiness at Crowe Horwath, Hayden Dillon, cautions that with markets still showing volatility, making hedging decisions simply by following economists’ advice can be fraught with danger.

“Even with another cut appearing to be imminent, the market appears to have little appetite for more, and inevitably talk will begin around when they may start to go up. Many rural borrowers are now looking at an interest rate curve that is still relatively flat, and thinking now could be the time to take some cover. But there are variables that you need to be aware of before you start to consider your options,” warns Dillon. . . 

Young Viticulturist of the Year drives off in brand new Hyundai Santa Fe:

Cameron Price the winner of the Young Viticulturist of the Year competition 2016 is thrilled to receive a Hyundai Santa Fe as part of his prize package. He will have full use of the vehicle for a whole year. It is appropriately “grenache” coloured – one of the more unusual red grape varieties that Price nurtures on the Villa Maria vineyards where he works.

The vehicle was presented to him at the Bayswater Hyundai Dealership. Hyundai have been sponsoring the Young Vit competition for the last three years and in that time the prestigious Bayer Young Viticulturist title has been taken out by a Hawke’s Bay finalist, a genuine hat-trick for the region. Paul Robinson also from Villa Maria won the competition in 2014 and Caleb Dennis from Craggy Range took it out in 2015. It is becoming a familiar sight therefore to see a Young Vit branded Hyundai Santa Fe cruising around The Bay. . . 


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