Sink your teeth into a food story

FIFTEEN years ago I met a vegetable farmer from the Scenic Rim.

He was one of the first full-time farmers I’d met.

Prior to meeting him my only real exposure to farm life had been a school holiday visit to a Moree cotton farm with a school friend.

I remember returning from Moree, to my cushy life on the Gold Coast, and exclaiming to my parents, ‘Who would be a farmer? It’s hard work and such long hours!’

Yet years later I find myself married to a farmer … in fact the vegetable farmer I met at a Gold Coast New Year’s Eve party 15 years ago.

Since we met I’ve had a crash course in all things farming and food production. Yes it is a hard way to make a living, but for those who do it it’s addictive. No one would continue in agriculture if they did not love it.

Most of the farmers I meet tell me they love turning nothing into something. They gain great satisfaction from growing food and feeding the nation and they love that their job keeps them outdoors, out of the city and away from the confines of an office.

In those early years of being a farmer’s wife what I realised I wasn’t the only city slicker who had little to no understanding of what went into growing fresh food.

Farmers often cop criticism for being a bunch of whingers … and yes some are.

But what I realised is you can’t whinge about city consumers not appreciating, or understanding, what you do if you don’t talk to them and show them how you produce the lettuce, beef, milk and chicken they take for granted.

It wasn’t until I read an article on a national news website that I decided it was time to open the farm gates to the public.

A leading Australian commentator bemoaned the fact that Australian tinned tomatoes and bacon were so much more expensive than imported products.

“Why should I support Australian products if I can buy imports cheaper?” he asked provocatively.

I wrote to him, telling him how the difference between a 75c can of Italian tomatoes and a $1.50 can of Australian tomatoes sustains Australian jobs on farms, in transport, logistics and the small community businesses which support the agriculture.

Interesting argument, he replied, but I still don’t agree with you.

That’s the moment we decided to invite city visitors to our farms. The premise was simple. Give the end users of our products a first-hand insight into where their food comes from. Let the meet the farmers, sit in the tractors and get muddy with their kids as they pull their own bag of carrots from the ground.

We weren’t sure if it would be a success.

On Saturday we will hold our fifth Carrot Field Day. It’s gone from attracting about 50 people the first year, to this year selling out. We will show 700 people through our washing and packing factory and talk to them about how we do what we do.

Last year we had people fly up from Melbourne to attend.

This year we have had people calling and emailing, upset they have missed out and asking if we can squeeze them in.

We’ve started a waiting list. My husband is astounded. Who would have thought a humble carrot farm tour would need a wait list?