Our sojourn in the States has come to an end. Back on the farm it is cold and wet. Under such circumstances we miss the warm weather, the hospitality of our new and old American friends and the unending new experiences we enjoyed.
I must say you get used to being a hermit. On the farm I get very involved in my work. I know I am speaking somewhat for myself as Ann always realises there is another world other than our farm. The work is very time consuming and you never get to the end. My fellow farmer friends from the States would concur with me on that one. There are advantages though too in that you do get satisfaction in being the minder for your piece of land and the realisation that the land needs you too in order to survive. Perhaps to some city folk this handshake could seem a little ridiculous but alas it does exist for me.
It is nice to grow things and to do it well. Much of the America that I visited is blessed with good soils. Nevertheless I was somewhat alarmed to see the level of mechanisation that has taken place in America particularly California.
You don’t have to be a genius to understand why this happens. The temptation is always there for the farming to improve his mechanisation, change the way he works and greatly improve his production. But producing more we saw doesn’t translate into sales. More often the grower faces more stringent prices ; in effect cancelling his production improvements.
It is sad to see small holding being eaten up by agglomerates , farm houses standing derelict as the forests of trees or whatever are being grown move across the countryside in endless repetition. It is sad to see that the Dairy farms too look like factories where the animals have become machines and grass no longer is part of their environment.
But yes I can see what will happen in Australia too. Already bigger mass produced berry farms are coming to Tasmania and with that those changes probably we will not be able to compete. Already it is difficult for the small producer to supply the bigger food chains. For one thing small producers cannot meet their volume requirements but more importantly a small producer hasn’t got the oomph to stand up to them and be respected. Surprisedly for me was to see in the States even being big didn’t offer you security with your buyers as then you enter a world market. More and more it would seem that individuals smaller holdings have to take more control over their destinies by value adding thereby entering the market at a higher level or by selling directly to the consumer via say a farmers market.
Whether there is room for the two markets initiatives still remains to be seen. Whether people will pay more for products produced on a small scale with possible benefits such as órganic’ is still a question. Whether the customers will continue to pay in hard times is difficult to know.
In Australia the feast and famine approach to farming seems to be ongoing. for example many pastoralists in Tasmania planted trees some years ago as the profits looked good. I t seemed like easy money and the the timber company wanted the trees for pulp went broke. Now the trees remain and no one seems to have found another use. Even more recently the dairy industry was encouraged by the milk produces to largely increase their production The China market was booming they said. It was a guaranteed way of makiing money – until!
You would think we would learn from our past. But just like history these memories are not inherited. You would think farmers and businesses dependent on them would share the risks – but alas in the main the co-op world has finished and it would appear that these agro-businesses are only responsible to their shareholders.