I’ve recently seen two inspiring television items concerning Kiwi ingenuity on farms. Specifically, environmentally responsible farming.
The first — on Country Calendar a program that rarely fails to inspire me — was about a family that have taken their farm back to the future with their methods of pasture growth and reduced herd size, and combined organic vegetable farming along with their milk production. Their business is booming.
The second was a news item showing farmers who have converted their farms into environmentally responsible properties especially where it concerns waterways. With enthusiasm (and a degree of pragmatism) they were endeavoring to inspire others to follow their lead in the sense that — with the new Watercare measures in place — there is really only one way forward and that is to get with the program.
This came at an opportune time since I am currently wrestling with the lyrics for a song about a river that starts life as a pristine stream and reaches the sea as a polluted waterway.
I’m sure most of you are aware that the current government is striving to address this problem with measures that some in the farming and business community consider incognisant of commercial realities, draconian, unreasonable and unrealistic. Particularly, where it affects dairy farms, which are viewed by many as the main source of everything from effluence to methane.
Needless to say the Opposition will likely climb on board and use this as proof that Labor and the Greens have no respect for, or knowledge of, big business.
And it is indeed big business. With export in particular, which has many flow-on benefits. New Zealand is the Saudi Arabia of milk. Dairy has underpinned our economy for decades and may well do so for years to come.
However, the strength of our dairy business has been built upon our clean green image. And few would argue that this is fast become more of an advertising slogan than a reality.
The reality is that our waterways are polluted and getting worse. Pretty soon our competitors may use this to their advantage. At the very least we could find our international credibility seriously undermined.
Already, Australia’s ABC network has screened a documentary ‘exposing’ our clean green image as a fabrication.
Which is why the Television items I saw were so inspiring. Farmers doing it for themselves.
Then a thought occurred to me: Why are they doing it for themselves?
We as nation, all of us, will benefit if the mistakes of the past are changed for the better. So surely the team of five million could and should help.
Fact is dairy farmers work bloody hard for incredibly long hours. So, for most, finding the time and money to do what must be done to protect the waterways for all of us is not just hard, it’s nigh on impossible.
I think what these farmers really need is help. Help with labour and materials. Help to build fences. Help planting trees. Help to restore nature’s balance.
With so many of us so quick and willing to criticise farmers for not doing what must be done, how many of us would be willing to help if that were an option?
What if we were to create Green Armies around the country —with tools and material supplied government — to go in and help farmers to protect the waterways on their properties?
I’m pretty sure if the concept was introduced in the right way to the farming community they would embrace it.
Right now, they have every reason to feel they are under attack from the populace at large. And I, for one, would like them to know we are on their side and we desperately need to bring our clean green image back to reality.
The sooner the better.
How do we enlist troops for these armies? Volunteers? People out of work? Those doing community service? I’m not sure. I only know that doing good is good for you. And making peace with those you’ve been at war with is good for the soul and the future. And I know that with the will there will be a way.
Yes, I know some of you reading this will be saying — ‘Tell him he’s dreaming son.’
But it’s an idea worth considering, pipe dream or not. Don’t you agree?