During my time as a freelance videographer, I had the opportunity to visit a number of North Island farms filming promos for a livestock tagging company which I won’t name here. Although if the company is reading this, a paid advertisement offer would be gladly accepted.
Often these farms would be down winding gravel roads far from amenities that city folk like me deem to be essential. The first thought that springs to mind when travelling these roads is always, how could anyone live out here? So far away from supermarkets, fast food, concert venues and other things that we need to survive in the modern age.
Yet every time I finally reached my destination, pulling up to an often well appointed but still modest home high in the hills with no neighbours to be seen. The cheerful greeting bestowed by its owner, who was usually flanked by one or two equally happy canine companions, instantly made these questions disappear.
Instead, looking out at the sweeping vistas, while breathing in the pollution free air you start to ask yourself just the opposite. Do I really need to be surrounded by so many buildings, cars and people?
It all seems very peaceful and calm, like escaping to a deserted island where you can just lounge around living out your day’s in idle bliss. But when you begin talking to the farmers about their lifestyles and daily routines you come to realise the amount of dedication and work which is involved in running and maintaining any kind of modern day farm.
We often don’t think about where our food actually comes from when we conveniently pluck it from the shelves of our local supermarket. The animals and other produce need round the clock care, seven days a week. From early starts for milking and feeding too late finishes maintaining fences and ensuring the general upkeep of the farm is in order.
On one farm deep in the hills of the Waikato I asked a farmer about the history of the farm and how much land he owned. He told me it had been in his family for generations and that the farm stretched as far as the eye could see in all directions before he casually added: “Oh yeah, it also extends a few kilometres over those hills blocking our view all the way around.”
While the size of the land he owned was impressive, the thing that blew my mind was the fact that although he and his young family sat on what was tens of millions of dollars’ worth of livestock and property. Instead of selling it and living what most of us would consider a life of luxury, they spent all their time working the land just so city folk like me could have a decent meal at the end of the day.
This leads to another misconception I had about the world of farming, I had always thought of farmers in New Zealand as our version of the royal family. An upper class that had been lucky enough to be born into an industry which would provide a comfortable living, land, and status to their families for generations to come.
After meeting and talking to many different farmers I realised they not only have farming in their blood, but do it for the love of the land they have often inherited, and the responsibilities that come with it.
The amount of knowledge that has been passed down through the generations is amazing, and I would often find myself listening in awe to a nine-year-old farmer’s son or daughter as they happily rattled off the various chores they still had to do for the day.
So hopefully the next time you are choosing which steak to buy, or complaining about the price of milk, you will think of the person who works tirelessly each day to provide us city folk with this luxury. Because God knows we wouldn’t have a clue how to provide it for ourselves!