Whose fault is it?

Lots has changed since 1980. Milk production in Victoria has more than doubled despite cow numbers remaining the same and 35% per cent less land to graze.

Since then, we’ve had massive advances in cow genetics, understanding how to grow grass and exactly what cows need to eat. But we farmers are no better off. Despite it all, we’re very much poorer.

Everyone seems to have an opinion on why that is and just whose fault it is. Pretty much everyone has copped it online: the government, supermarkets, milk processors, agri leaders, farmers and consumers. What strikes me, though, is just how similar our situation is to that of farmers around the globe.

Milk has been sprayed at icons in France, the Brits have hit the barricades in desperation, and outgunned riot police in Brussels. Things are miserable in the US, too.  I think the reality is that affluent societies consider high-quality food a right. And you don’t value your rights until they are threatened.

Very few urban Australians would believe their access to fresh milk is at risk and, until they do, unsustainable food pricing will be “someone else’s problem”. I wonder whether it will be me or my children who will one day staff the barricades, wield the “milk cannon” or simply quietly try something else that’s truly valued by Australians.

Please can we do some more farm jobs?

Apparently, Australian agriculture needs to be made more “sexy” to attract young people. I don’t think so. While you can get paid ridiculous amounts of money to work in mining, the call of the land is strong for those who really love it.

Already, I can see it’s in Zoe’s blood.

Zoe chases the heifers

“I’ll get them, Mum, I can do it, you watch!”

Straight off the school bus, she launched into moving the yearlings with great gusto. It was like watching Patch. She ran around them in circles first, then made some crazy dashes right through the centre of the mob. Pure unadulterated fun!

We got them all out a few minutes later, with flushed cheeks and the wind in our hair. “Please, Mum, can we do some more farm jobs before we go home?”

My gut tells me Australian farming and fresh food has a great future. My head tells me that’s so too, with one caveat: before they can feed the world, there has to be a sustainable return so they have confidence there’ll be enough to feed themselves.