Rain, Where are You?
So we are in this terrible drought that has turned our farm, and many others, into a grey and bleak
dust bowl. If you are not farming, you are probably sick of hearing about it. Rest assured though, it
will affect you: our community and our country as a whole relies on agriculture to survive.
Agriculture is the back bone of this country.
North canterbury is always dry. Every summer careful planning and management is required to
ensure feed is adequate for the dryer months and the winter that follows. But this is different : this
is a drought of epic proportions: we are in our second year running of this, and my husband
faces the extremely tough prospect of sending stock to farmers down south who have land
available for grazing that is usually set aside for dairy farmers: an extremely costly process with no
room for profit.Without the dairy down turn that land would probably not be available.
Uncomfortably, we benefit from their loss.
My husband is third generation on this farm. His grandfather and his brother started off in Omihi in
the 1940s,on a shoe string,even sharing one jacket in the cooler months. Life was tough, there
were triumphs and tragedies that followed through generations, all played on these 1200 acres of
limestone hills and clay flats. Why do we stick at this farming caper, when things can so very hard?
It's not about the money: many of us are couples with young children buying into farms that have a
capital value way beyond their earning capacity. Gone are the days when farms could just be
handed down: in most cases that isn't viable any more, and that is fine and to be expected- but
throw a drought in the mix when mortgages are huge and things become scary indeed. For
every farmer that appears to be financially loaded , driving a Range Rover to his six bedroom
homestead ( more power to them any way, this tall poppy thing benefits absolutely nobody - why
can't we celebrate other people's success?) there are ten others driving an old hilux held together
with duct tape living a tiny farm cottage., not necessarily on the poverty line but struggling for sure.
The stress can be overwhelming. There are some shocking statistics of farm suicides in this
country: rural suicides in the agricultural research sector are high - at one point there was one
suicide every two weeks.
So we do we stick at it? We stick at because the landscape is wildly beautiful. There is nothing like
the moon rising over the limestone on an Autumn evening, the technicolour beauty of a nor west
sunrise or the view through the valley of coppers and golds of the grapevines in April from what my
daughter calls the 'tippy top' of the farm. We stick at it for histories sake : it is an honour and a
privilege to work the land like your father, and his father before him. It is a sort of custodianship,
and that comes with not a small amount of pressure. We stick at it for our children: this farm is not
just a business , it is our home and has all the emotional attachment that comes with that. There is
a lot to lose.
Right now though, this drought is pushing good, hardworking men and women to the brink of
desperation. If things continue, and we don't get decent rain soon,there will be families facing the
grim reality of losing farms that have been theirs for generations. Businesses relying on and
supporting farmers are doing it tough too.We need to support each other, and look out for our
neighbours more than ever. We need Rural support and the government as a whole to step up. A
packet of biscuits and a pass to the Hanmer hot pools is lovely, but it's not going to fix this.