Sunday, 14 January 2018

The Australian Farmer

Australia; a country filled with green grass and promise. Where abundant rain falls in the tropics, and occasionally in the fertile valleys and plains. When the rain stops it is as if it had never come. The rain, long passed, turns into the Dry. The Dry becomes drought and children under four do not know what rain looks like. Where the Dry kills every crop, backyard garden and bowling green, the drought kills dreams, family dynasties and livelihoods. The Dry is a schoolyard bully but long foresight, deep pockets and early preparation might allow you to minimise losses. The drought is a cruel, harsh dictator; amoral and merciless. No one escapes the drought.

The only way to remove an unrelenting drought is by flood. Not any flood, not just a flood that causes rivers to swell, dams to be filled and inland lakes to breath again. Not just a flood that brings birds a-flocking, grass a-growing and bees a-buzzing. No, it has to be a flood that wipes out any remaining stock and crop, that cuts roads for days, wrecks rail lines, cuts power and phone for weeks and takes human life. When drought takes a firm grip of the country, only a flood such as this can break it.

And one thing is certain. Every flood is followed by a drought.

So the man who decides to farm this country, whether by own choice or the decision is made for him through the charge of family loyalty, long dynasty or paternal pressure, is a man like no other man. He is a man who is able to be stoic against the elements, resolute against pest and disease, and indomitable against the markets.  He has learnt plumbing and carpentry, mechanics and fitting, fencing and irrigation, agronomy, chemistry, biology, meteorology, economics, marketing, politics and value-adding. He is able to labour from dawn to dark in the field and then expend hours at night keeping accounts balanced, records accurate and orders submitted to ensure the next season has a chance. He is able to help a neighbour in distress even when his own family is impoverished. He rallies the community and brings strength to the weak, he advises paths of action to others even if it means detriment to himself.

He is not born this way for these qualities are never birthed in a man; they can only be forged by the searing of the sun and the slicing of hail; by bumper crops in time of market downturn and drought-ravaged crops in time of high market demand; by callous demands from ruthless bankers and cold-blooded policies from uncaring governments.  He risks his finances and jeopardises his reputation for the love of his family and his land.

This is the Australian farmer.

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