Tim has to be careful what he shows me in the way of DVDs as I have a tendency to get very worked up and passionate about certain things(!). We just watched Food, INC. and I found myself moved, emotional and wishing I was well enough to go out and make a difference to the terribly corrupt and dysfunctional industrialised food production system we have got ourselves into. I’ve just signed up for the Food, INC. newsletter and goodness knows I’m already overwhelmed by the number of political, health, food etc advocacy newsletters I’ve signed up for. But I can’t help it.
As part of the fourth generation of a farming family, I feel very passionate about farming and food. I’ve witnessed very closely the farmer’s life on our family’s farm and realise now that I’m one of the privileged few lifetime city dwellers who has had an experience with grassroots, mostly pre-industrialised food production. My great grandfather, John Knapton (The Boss, as he was known on the farm), was born in 1877 in a tiny town called Vasse in south-west Western Australia. Whilst working for the Greenbushes timber mill in the early 1900s, he saved enough money to buy some farmland (piece by piece) from the government between Balingup and Greenbushes. He cleared the land by hand and his fence posts, made of irregularly shaped pieces of wood from the trees he cut down are still there today.
I’ve always felt such a strong bond with my relatives on the farm, visiting with them from childhood, through my teens and into my twenties. I absolutely loved farm life – milking the cows, cutting hay, collecting eggs etc. And my great aunt and uncle (I called them Nan and Pop) who lived on the farm were wonderful folk.
What I witnessed during the 20 odd years I spent visiting the farm was an incredibly down-home, earthy approach to food and life. Even now (the farm is still held by a third generation family member but on the market for sale as the only fourth gen. son wanting to take on the family legacy suicided in 2002), my uncle will often kill a sheep or a cow, have it carved up and send bulk meat to his brothers and sisters around the region. My Nan and Pop used to take a fishing trip to their holiday house on the coast near Busselton every year and bring back enough fish for their two kitchen deep freezers to last them the year. My Pop tended his vegetable garden in front of the house every day, Nan looked after chickens and collected their eggs and milked the house cow every morning. They had fruit trees and nut trees and even beautiful camelia trees in the orchard right by the house. No wonder my Pop live to 97 and Nan died just a few months ago.
I always had the most intensely enjoyable time during my visits to the farm. Often, as a child, my mother would find me crying on my bed upon my return to my own family “home” in the city. My brothers and I would always make sure we participated in every possible farm activity – getting up at 5am when it was -6C outside to milk the cows, collecting the eggs and being most excited if we could help out with some of the “real” farm work like backing up the ute to get a bale of hay to deliver to a neighbour. Maybe it was these earthy, organic-feeling experiences that instilled in me a love of simple, whole, locally sourced foods. My relatives have told me that the reason The Boss decided to go into farming, with all its hardships, was so that his family would always have food. And certainly the farm proved an invaluable family asset during the depression and World War II when many of his grown children came back to live at the farm.
One of the things I’ve noticed about Australian farmers is their fierce independence, ability to tough it out through much adversity (at least my grandmother’s generation and further back – not my generation which is wracked with a phenomenon of male suicide but that’s a subject for another blog post) and a general sense of “nobody’s going to tell me what to do”. Which, given what I’ve seen in the Food, INC. documentary, makes me wonder how on earth big companies like Monsanto came to dominate farmers and their industry to the point of enslaving them. It also gives me great hope that these fiercely independent tamers of the land will not accept such intolerable conditions imposed on them by corporate monopolies and will one day soon rise up and revolt. Fight for their (and our) rights when it comes to the food we produce and eat.
Food, INC. has certainly made me even more appreciative of companies like Wholefoods who pay their workers a living wage and only source healthy food from healthy sources. Thanks goodness change is happening.
If you want to know more or participate, please visit the Food, INC. documentary website at:
And for one of the most inspiring farmers with integrity, check out Polyface: