Celebrating Farmers – RedbankJames’s WineBlog

I see yesterday that Bob Harvey, Mayor of Waitakere City, was putting the boot into rural New Zealand, saying we all hate Auckland and Aucklanders, and cities are the driving force of the country, not rural folk.

Wrong, Bob. Like it or not, agriculture has been, and will be for quite some time, the economic backbone of this country. We are a small nation. We simply can not make our way in the world solely on IT, fashion, arts or film, as arty-farty types like Bob would possible like to believe. (I like Bob, actually, he’s an enthusiast, good company, and done many good things for New Zealand.)

The other flaw in his outburst is that most people who live in Auckland were not born and bred there, in fact many of them would have moved there from the country, and probably, like me when I lived in Auckland, harbour a yearning to return to their roots one day.

Anyway, I think this polarisation between city/country, right/left, boxers/y-fronts, vegemite /marmite (just checking you’re listening) is silly and gets us nowhere.

But I do celebrate farmers, and my story in the latest NBR Magazine, out last week, demonstrates this. You can buy the mag online, for $8 I think, and it has the rich list to drool over too, if that’s your thing. I interviewed two farming families, from the North Island, in Central Hawke’s Bay, and the South Island, in Southland, and was really impressed at their business acumen, their conservation values, their dedication and hard work, and their wonderful outlook on life. To give you some idea of the tone of the story, the intro goes:

“Suddenly, farming is the new rich. Dairy’s a known market darling, but beef and sheep are about to make a comeback. Deborah Coddington visited successful, hard working farmers dismissed by ‘knowledge economy’ cheerleaders in 2001, and finds New Zealand agribusiness putting them back in clover.”

Make no mistake, there are some seriously wealthy farmers around New Zealand, but they’re not all corporates, like the dairy sector. These are family owned and operated, out in all weathers, seven days a week. And while they’ve had it tough with a terrible drought, fertilizer and fuel costs soaring, and interest rates not being favourable, beef and sheep is definitely on the turn. Westpac economists predict a brighter future with increased demand from the USA for lamb and beef.

(And this is where, flaws aside, Winston Peters has done the agricultural sector a good turn, in not just thawing, but warming up our relationship with the US via Condolleeza Rice. Sure, if Obama gets in as President, we may well be back where we started in terms of freer trade, but at least we’ve made progress in the interim.)

Wool, too, may have turned the corner. The ANZ’s May commodity price index recorded a 2.4 per cent increase in wool.

The world has a food shortage. We could take advantage of that, celebrate our farmers, stop beating them up for their alleged ruination of the environment (which is largely false), help feed the world and enrich ourselves in the process.

The photographs are marvellous too, as you’d expect from this gloriously panoramic country of ours.


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