I have a few new readers, so I’m going to give a little background on myself before I launch into the issue I want to discus today. After that, I will discus what I’ve noticied about the urban/rural divide in New Zealand.
Growing up, I always wanted to be a dairy farmer. When I was 17 I applied for a few jobs, was sucessful in the interview, and got the job. I started when I was 17, and finished up when I was 21. The only reason I went to uni is because I realized that I had nothing to fall back on, I might wake up one day and decide I hated dairy farming, but then I’d have to either 1) Live with it or 2) Get a low paying job, and not be able to achieve anything I want to do in life (Which is kind of ironic, I’m now getting paid less then I was dairy farming)
I started off with AgSci, turned out I’m crap at science (left school at 15), and moved on to Environmental management and planning. I still loved dairy farming, it’s our main economic export (it may have been taken over by tourism, I haven’t looked at the numbers recently). However people in class did not like dairy farming, but they also mis-understood a lot of what dairy farming was or what farmers were doing.
I remember sitting in a class, and one of the soil science lecturers was discussing N leeching or something, and a girl who was studying Tourism stuck her hand up and had a go at the guy because the research farm had “failed what it was aiming to do, so dairy farmers suck. It’s not even possible for farmers to like the environment, etc etc”. What she said really annoyed me. What I realized had happened is that she had read the title of an article about the research the farm was undertaking, not tried to understand anything about the research, or read the actual article, and threw it in this lecturers face, didn’t let him get a word in edge wise, and basically said after class “he couldn’t even defend himself, farmers suck”.
The media in NZ also portray farmers as horrible, environmentally destroying people who don’t care for our countrys future. My own family have massive problems with dairy farmers, but as someone who is out in the field almost every day, talking to these farmers, and as someone who used to work for the industry, I have something to tell you;
NOT ALL FARMERS SUCK.
I know it’s hard to believe. The media story on the news did a good job at making out that every single farmer discharges effluent into the river, when I was only one farm. And the article you just read about a research farm trying to research different methods of farming to try achieve better environmental outcomes was written by someone very biased.
I spend a lot of time outdoors with these farmers, so many of them have sunk money into their farms, above and beyond what we require as “minimums”; farmers acknowledge that errors have been made in the past, and some are working really hard to fix those errors, to clean up the bad name their parents or previous farmers have created for them. It’s not just dairy farmers, either. i know of a piggery which has spent a lot of money upgrading it’s systems to try and please the ever-growing town that is now encroching on their land. An area I imagine did not have many houses historically.
There is a large rural / urban gap in New Zealand, and in my field of work, it’s interesting to see it come out so often. Don’t get me wrong, there are people out there who do really bad things to the environment, and have not a care in the world (I am fortunate to not met those people yet). But most of the time, any issues found are mostly mistakes, or genuine non-understanding of the rules, and those issues found are fixed.
And so, that is why half way through my uni degree I decided that I want to help to bridge that gap, but I also want to reach out to the farmers that maybe do need help, improving systems or interpreting rules. I get to do a bit of that in my current role, (I still love the job, nothing changed since last time I wrote about it!) but in future, I’d love to be more hands on. It sounds like a roll I’d have to make up myself. “Jana, the chick that loves cows and also the environment, call me to fix your environmental issues!!”