Story telling from Australia
‘So, Deb Hunt, why did you write this book?’
As interview questions go it couldn’t have been easier, yet I hesitated. I said something about curiosity, about Clyde being a carnivore and me wanting to know where the meat I cook comes from, but there was more I couldn’t fully articulate. Thankfully Natasha moved on to talk to Lyn French and Cath Marriott so I was let off the hook.
Both Lyn and Cath are passionately committed to farming and family, they’ve both survived unimaginable struggles to succeed and they both have a fantastic sense of humour. (Click here for the podcast, it’s worth a listen).
I came away from the interview thinking, so why did I write this book?
My father was an avid gardener and he grew food in a small patch at the back of our childhood home. I loved helping him, loved picking raspberries, harvesting runner beans, stripping blackcurrants off the bushes and dipping a fresh stalk of rhubarb into a pot of sugar. I realised, much later in life, that growing food helps ground me.
All the Australian farmers, graziers and pastoralists I met while researching this book cared about their animals, they cared about the land and they cared about each other. There was a deep sense of connection and they seemed less frenetic than those of us who live in a city. They were more willing to accept that you can’t control everything that happens in life.
I liked that energy.
Australian farmers live and work in some extremely remote places, under conditions that would test anyone, and all of the people I interviewed had fascinating stories to tell. I met farmers who’ve survived everything nature can throw at them, from fire, flood and drought to choking dust storms; parents who drive hundreds of kilometres so their isolated children can get to school camp; people passionately determined to give their children the education they missed out on – my pockets quickly filled with stories.
The welcome I received wherever I went was unconditional, and this message from Lyn French was typical: ‘The door’s always open and the billy’s always boiling,’ she wrote.
It takes energy to produce food – human energy – and for most Australian farmers that energy involves the entire family; there was little separation between work and home for most of the people I spoke to.
None of the farmers I interviewed were looking to make a fortune and retire rich; they just wanted to carry on farming and give their children the opportunity to do the same, if that’s what they chose to do.
In our technology-driven lives it was something of a relief to spend time with people who weren’t constantly checking their phones and computers for messages. A twenty-something backpacker who stayed with us in Sydney recently commented, “The world would fall apart if we didn’t have all this technology to guide us, wouldn’t it?’
Would it? Maybe in a city it might. We’d probably run around like headless chickens, endlessly prodding at useless buttons and worrying the world might have come to an end. I suspect farmers, though, would simply keep on farming… and for that I’m immensely grateful.
People who live and work on the land matter, because like most of us I can’t/don’t/won’t grow enough food to feed myself – let alone anyone else. If it weren’t for farmers there’d be no food in my fridge.
So I think I wrote this book to celebrate, to acknowledge and to pay tribute to, all those farmers and their families whose lives are dedicated to producing food. Thank you all.
And thank you Natasha, for a great interview!