Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Accidental Activist

Born to dairy farming parents (and grandparents on both sides!), I grew up a country boy. Despite all the simple pleasures of life on a dairy farm - I never used to mind the long hours...the 7 days a week. It always felt like I was accomplishing something for the greater good. Yes my family was putting milk on your weetbix and in you coffee. My family was starting your day - and fueling an entire nation. And in a broad sense, I really do believe that our efforts didn't go unnoticed by the wider community. We, the humble dairy farmer was respected and appreciated by the masses - because most people knew and understood the sacrifices and commitments we made on farm, on a daily basis.

Well that was then...and this is now! Back THEN (in my formative years of the 70s and 80s) the big majority of people (even those who lived in the big towns and cities) had a close friend or relative who they would visit regularly, on a dairy farm. Back then - there were 4 times as many dairy farms, in an Australia that had half the population we do today. For those who love statistics - that represents an 800% decrease in dairy farms per Aussie citizen!!

To the here and now? I think it's fair to say that most Aussie dairy farmers are no longer feeling the love that once existed. In fact many are feeling the literal HEAT (through climate and financial decimation) and HATE (from very vocal and badly mislead animal rights minorities). It is because of these injustices that I have felt compelled to become more than just a dairy farmer (which in its own right is still a very honourable and highly valued profession), and somehow started walking the path of an Accidental Activist.

In my case that has meant facing some huge challenges on a regular basis - because I am highly unskilled and untrained in this arena. It can feel like a pretty lonely path to walk, and much of my time can feel more like I'm failing...rather than succeeding. But despite the perceived failures, I pick myself up, and dust myself off, and keep chipping away - I feel as though I have too!!

NOW - the world is a different place. If any of us see things in society that we don't like, then it should be up to us to make the change. Forget about your Government, or Corporate Giants doing what is moral and right - they are just not wired that way. People Power exists - when millions of individuals change their behaviour, through actions (remember...talk is cheap), only then with things change for the better. Of course on the flip side - People Power works just as effectively through our inaction, it doesn't discriminate. If we as a collective of millions don't make any changes, then nothing will change. I'm sure many of you are familiar with Einstein's definition of INSANITY.

Hmmm...welcome to NOW. The historic point in time where humans have been happy to blame anyone and everyone for their woes, because that is easier than breaking our habits and changing our behaviours. Governments and Big Business around the world know this - their success and survival depends of us, the little people, playing their game - with their rules. We don't have to...we choose to!

I guess I am trying to become a 'thought leader' of sorts. My strong desire is to stimulate open conversation, and encourage others to analyse what is happening, and why. Our farmers are dying within their respective industries. And the survivors are becoming increasingly at risk of facing massive disruptions through mental health - as we know the risk of depression, anxiety and suicide are close to 3 times the national average among farmers. Not a great incentive to remain farming.

Maybe I'm a screw loose. What am I thinking with my next bold adventure? Well to be honest, I've been in the trenches fighting the good fight to the best of my limited ability for many years now, and just not having much impact. Change within Australian agriculture is not happening. Consumer spending habits are not changing (no where near quick enough anyway). If something doesn't give soon - you will be relying on other countries to feed you. We cannot expect Aussie farmers to stay alive in business when the flow of money (from the consumer) doesn't cover the cost of producing your food...doesn't enable farmers to pay their bills every month.

So I think it's fair to say, "I can't see the forest for the trees!" I've been up too close and personal with this battle. I think I'm suffocating in my inability to effect change. My idea to travel the world and document my findings, from 52 countries in 52 weeks - is to help Aussie farmers find a way to survive. But most importantly, I want to share the journey with you - the 'townie', the 'city slicker' (terms I use with love and respect!). I want to help you...help us!! I want to reconnect CITY with COUNTRY on a massive scale - so you can see, understand and appreciate what goes into producing your food on a daily basis...just like maybe your parents and grandparents used to see first hand.

I get that the overwhelming majority of you have no desire to ever visit a farm. I'm cool with that. But you still eat food...right? We cannot afford to ever lose touch with our farmers, and where our food comes from. REAL FOOD is our medicine. REAL FOOD will continue to give us life - here on Earth.

Please support this campaign - for without your help, I am nothing, my voice will disappear. As long as I have a receptive audience...I want to share my insights, and my life lessons :)


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