Friday, February 17, 2012

Farmers - Stewards of the environment

It's that time of year again, the warm days and wet weather brings good times, fat cattle and weeds! Weeds are a serious curse down here in Victoria, one or two may look harmless but every thistle or ragwort that is left standing can spew forth thousands of airborne seeds over a wide area, seeds that are capable of surviving in the ground many years while they wait for favorable conditions to strike and multiply.

As a farmer you don't really think about how your management practices are perceived outside your local community but the recent live export debacle has shown me the increasing hostility that some city people are willing to show toward their country cousins.

So there I was bouncing the two wheel drive quad bike through the bush and I had to wish that maybe someone in the city would take the time to appreciate what I was doing. We've preserved close to a hundred acres of bushland on our property, bushland that is home to wallabies, kangaroos, koalas, wombats, echidnas and many other native marsupials. Some might say this land represents lost production, another fifty or a hundred head of cattle we could be running, another hundred acres of peas or potatoes. That hundred acres of bush also represents a cost, a hiding place for weeds and introduced animals like foxes, cats and rabbits that must be kept in check at our own cost.

To us that hundred acres of bushland is a cost we gladly bear.

Trees bring rain and help with retaining moisture, they are an important part of the ecosystem of our farm. Native shelter strips for our cattle also provide corridors for native wildlife to move about. One of the great perks of living in the country is waking up to find the wallabies mowing your lawn for you.

City environmentalists have managed to convince many of our city cousins that farmers are raping the land for all its worth, that livestock production and irrigation on the Murray-Darling can never be sustainable. These lies are taught in our schools and universities like they are cold fact and common knowledge.

I don't want a medal for spending my day wrestling this old bike through the scrub and spraying a few weeds. I want people to recognise that the modern farmer works in harmony with nature, if we don't nature will take us out. Without the work of farmers this land would be over-run with introduced weeds and pests and our regional towns would wither and die. As a farmer I'm proud to say I am a steward of my environment. 

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