This is the story of an Australian farm. In a way, this farm is special. Every year it feeds six hundred strangers. People the farmer has never met. Never will.
Many of these strangers live here. A lot of what the farm produces leaves Australia to feed hungry mouths abroad. These people are thankful for the food they eat. They’ll never know the name of the farmer who produced it.
This happens year in, year out, without fail. 600 people fed by one farmer from the produce of one farm.
In another way, though, there’s nothing remarkable about this farm feeding so many strangers every year. Other Australian farms do the same. The average Australian farm produces enough food to feed 600 people annually.
About 150 of those strangers live here in Australia. Most don’t. Because our farms produce more food than our population can consume, a lot of farm produce is exported.
Some foods are especially popular overseas. 92% of rice grown in Australia is exported, mostly to Asia. 84% of sugar is exported. 78% of beef and lamb goes overseas.
In 2021/22, there were 88,000 farms in Australia. It’s way too easy to take these farms – and our farmers – for granted. We expect there to be milk on the supermarket shelf no matter what. We expect perfect tomatoes, without even acknowledging weather events that might have decimated the year’s crop.
As an IIF Coop member, you’ll know how passionate we are to support and celebrate farmers.
For most farmers, it’s hard physical work. During planting, it’s not uncommon to work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week.
For many, farming provides only a modest lifestyle. In any year, a quarter of our farmers lose money or barely earn anything.
So, why do farmers do it?
We’ll let agricultural writer Wendell Berry answer that.
“Farmers farm for the love of farming. They love to watch and nurture the growth of plants. They love to live in the presence of animals. They love to work outdoors. They love the weather, maybe even when it is making them miserable. They love to live where they work and to work where they live.”
Maybe farmers sometimes wonder where their food has ended up. Who is eating it. Like artists, they rarely know who buys their produce, never know the pleasure it brings.
They know that they’ve produced the best they can in this current season. There was a market for it. And somewhere here or overseas, a family has consumed that food. Next season, they will do it again. Next season, they will feed another 600 strangers. And again the next year. And again. And again.