By Lucy Ziesemer
How else could I start this post than HAPPY NEW YEAR?! Here in the sticks as beef producers we were largely exempt from the trials and tribulations of the Covid-19 saga and thankfully for us were able to watch the pandemic unfold from afar. Of course, our little towns closed down and our usually sleepy streets went into full blown comas, but when you’re used to the peace and quiet of rural life an exaggeration of that isn’t too hard to cop.
Take nothing away from the small businesses that felt the full force of 2020- our hearts are still with those families doing it tough because we’ve all been there.
We branded the last mob of calves at Taroom this morning and sweat out every last morsel of the silly season- no juice cleanse required! Our biggest mob in both numbers and size, it was a tough slog to end on.. kind of like the way 2020 ended for a lot of people really.
HOWEVER! Let’s be the glass half full types and look back at what went right hey?!
In short, the cattle market skyrocketed and it rained - jackpot!
Still, what I enjoyed seeing most in 2020 was the general public’s brand new appreciation for food! It was as though we were watching the human race awaken from a spell, where Covid-19 forced people to think beyond the fridges of Coles and even beyond the trucks that stock those fridges. Forgive me, but wasn’t it fantastic to see the thought process evolve, see families buying veggie seedlings and planting herbs on their windowsills? People bought chooks! There was a two month wait on laying hens!
Demand for Aussie grown proteins jumped because finally, the luxury of popping to the deli and picking up a pack of t-bones was out of reach and everybody looked up from their phones while grocery shopping to say “hang on, where am I going to get my steak?”
Private, grass roots butcher shops have become as popular as Pizza Hut and we’re seeing Aussies opt for locally grown produce as opposed to imported goods. I can’t explain the joy this brings me.
Australia is an oasis for food production - we truly live in a salad bowl where almost any delicacy can be harvested one day and dished up the next. I’m grateful, truly, for Covid having such a profound effect on Aussie agriculture. I wish it hadn’t taken such a massive kick up the bum to change perspectives but as they say, you gotta do what you gotta do.
To me, this year is like the first page of a new book, or the ‘this book belongs to’ page with a line for you to write your name."
I’ve often wondered what it would cost to make agriculture relatable and had numerous conversations where the general consensus has been “teach them what it’s like to go without.” Statements like these aren’t malicious, but there’s only so many times news stories about food production can be ignored before those in the hypothetical backstage crew start clutching at straws. As it turned out, we didn’t need to go on strike and the hens were free to keep up the good work as consumers saw the world through new eyes organically and of their own accord.
What we need now is to not forget how far we’ve come. It’s so important. We love growing food and we love that shoppers love dining on it. It is an extremely rewarding experience sending a load of prime grass fed steers to slaughter knowing that beef will be enjoyed in ritzy restaurants, first class steak houses, over the counter at surf clubs and hot off the backyard barbeque. To me, this year is like the first page of a new book, or the ‘this book belongs to’ page with a line for you to write your name. When you make your mark on this, the first year of a new decade, don’t just write your name. Make your mark as an active, enlightened consumer of Australian agricultural produce. Buy your groceries with eyes wide open and aim to learn something as you wander the aisles. A fun fact.. lots of fresh produce actually has the name of the farm and its location detailed on the label, which I reckon is pretty cool!
So welcome 2021, you barefaced, clean slate beauty! This year I desperately hope everyone’s veggie gardens thrive, their chooks don’t go clucky and we keep supporting the Aussie farmers who will never let our fellow Australians’ fridges go bare.
Oli Le Lievre
Oli's experience is extensive for someone his age; from AgTech to production agriculture to consulting. He was a key member in the development of Australia's largest agrifood event in 2019. Oli's passionate about a resilient food system and believes engaged people are pivotal to this success.