I know what it’s like to be a city based person. I spent my first 20 years in Brisbane. I commuted to my office job every morning and finishing at 4.59pm on the dot every afternoon. The bus ride home was full of weary workers, staring out of the window on the way home and planning their leisure activities.
Like them, I didn’t spare a thought for anyone living outside my own little world. My food came packaged on little Styrofoam trays and cardboard boxes, as far removed from my thought process as the man or woman who produced it. I doubt I would ever have appreciated the care and hard work that went into producing that food, had I not met a farmer who changed my not only my way of life, but the very things I value.
There is nothing quite as satisfying as living a life on the land that is in harmony with the seasons, the landscape and the animals you raise. Filling your freezer with home killed beef, stacking up wood for your winter fires and filling a basket with fresh veggies from the garden make you appreciate the simple things in life. Being self-sufficient is one of the joys of living on the land.
I have city friends who envy what they call my ‘free meat’. I can understand how they think that; it’s ignorance born from disconnection. There was a time when nearly everyone knew or was related to someone who had a farm. It gave them insight into what it took to raise animals and grow crops and the challenges that presents.
Not so long ago, lots of young people would pack a bag and stay out in the country with friends or relatives for the school holidays and come home with tales of kangaroos eating out the wheat paddocks and of trapping feral pigs. For these kids it was the greatest of adventures and they couldn’t wait to get back and do it again. They grew up with an understanding of what it meant to make a living off the land.
Without that kind of connection there is no understanding. So when friends tell me, I’m lucky to have a freezer full of meat I set them straight. This is a business we are running and our end product is beef. For every beast we produce there’s up to two years hard labour. Not just 9am till 4.59pm but early mornings when the frost is thick on the ground and summer afternoons when the heat burns your eyes. There are days you get up with the sun and don’t stop till it’s too dark to see.
For each beast there are expenses, they don’t come free. They are tagged, drenched and vaccinated, sprayed for flies in the summer and dosed for worms in the spring. We grow crops of oats and summer forages to fatten and grow them and it all costs money. Lots of money.
There’s a saying – There is no such thing as a free lunch and farmers know better than most, you don’t get something for nothing. Your rewards in life are an equal reaction to the work you put in. There is no pay cheque at the end of every week for just turning up and sometimes no matter how much effort you make, stuff happens and you just have to keep going.