Saturday, January 21, 2012

2012: The Year of the Farmer

2012 is the Australian Year of the Farmer. A whole year dedicated to celebrating primary production and bridging the country/city divide. This is good news for those of us living in rural Australia who may feel our city cousins and people living in the larger regional centres take our locally produced food and fibres for granted.
There are approximately 136,000 farms across Australia all working to provide Australians with the high quality of life we enjoy in comparison to many other parts of the world.
Here in Australia we are in the enviable position of being self-sufficient when it comes to feeding our population. As a nation we feed ourselves and we are also able to export 60% of our total agricultural production. Our farmers produce large amounts of high quality food and fibre for the benefit of us all.

Thanks to the sheer size of our country and the different climatic regions we can produce blueberries through to bananas and everything in between. We are able to enjoy a diverse range of food and the opportunity to nourish ourselves with a well balanced diet.
It is wise for Australians to stop and think about agricultural production and where our food comes from. We are the “lucky country” but luck usually involves a fair amount of hard work. Luck is rarely found where complacency dwells and I wonder if we are becoming far too complacent as a nation.
Food security has become a global issue as the world population increases.

Countries such as China with their huge growing populations and decreasing viable farmland are planning ahead for their future by investing in countries outside of their own. Already China has made significant investments in Australian farms, mines and energy production. No doubt the Great Famine that occurred in China between1959 and 1961 where an estimated 20 – 43 million people starved to death is still very much in their memories. Australia on the other hand has never known a famine and it would appear that we are selling our own future for short-term gain. If we sell large tracts of our best agricultural land to other nations such as China, does this mean that potentially in the future we may be reliant on buying food back from China?
Of course all these musings maybe due to my overactive imagination, which this week seems, focussed on doom and gloom. On a brighter note, according to data gathered by the Australian Bureau of Statistics up until 31st December 2010:
• 99 per cent of Australian agricultural businesses were entirely Australian owned
88.6 per cent of agricultural land in Australia was entirely Australian owned
• 91 per cent of the water entitlements for agricultural purposes in Australia were owned by entirely Australian owned businesses.
This is all most reassuring so long as you don’t recall too often the famous quote about statistics, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.
Take the opportunity to celebrate the Year of the Farmer in 2012 by thinking about where your food comes from, talking with farmers, sharing your knowledge with city-based friends (invite them to our monthly farmer’s market in Koondrook) and buying Australian owned and grown produce.

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