Today is our second in a series of guest posts by farmers/graziers/those who raise our food! (Here is a link to part 1.) This post is written by Aneeta Hafemeister, a beef grazier from Queensland who I had the delight of meeting at a Joel Salatin master class – of which I still owe you part two!
Recently I had the good fortune of meeting the beautiful Kat Reiner at a Joel Salatin Masterclass. While talking to Kat and other attendees, as well as listening intently (yes Joel Salatin is my celebrity crush) to Joel’s insightful prose, it occurred to me that we farming folk don’t truly appreciate the extreme disconnection of some of our city cousins when it comes to food production. Joel mentioned that he has had clients who didn’t even know that chickens have bones, having only ever purchased “chicken” as boneless, skinless breast. I just struggled so much with this, to the point that it confused me and frustrated me.
To give you a background for my confusion with this issue I guess I should introduce myself. I am a beef cattle farmer. I am married and have four children. The farm that we live on has been in my husband’s family since the 1940’s. We are located in Queensland, near a small town called Injune (near Roma, if that helps anyone…..probably not, okay we are about 6 hours West/Northish of Brisbane). I grew up on a beef cattle property (we don’t actually call ourselves “farmers” out here, usually “graziers”, and we call our farms “properties” or “stations”.) in North Queensland about 200km inland from Townsville. My family’s property is 156,000 acres (which is about average size in that district). I grew up milking cows (by hand: no machines), tending to our chickens and feeding pigs. As well as the usual farm stuff like riding wily, cantankerous ponies and helping to muster the cattle. We always drank raw milk. We just called it “milk”. It seems to have gotten rather fashionable lately. Oh and a small comment here; those who say “Don’t cry over spilt milk” obviously didn’t have to milk the cow.
Figure 1. This is me at age 3 years milking our dear old cow, Joey.
Our property boundary borders a small township called Homestead and it was here that my siblings and I attended a small one teacher school. Our house is a few kilometres from the town so we rode our motorbikes to school everyday. Our Aunt lived just near the school so we parked our bikes under her Mango tree every morning and walked over to school. It was all our own private bush track so we had lots of fun. Every afternoon after we got home from school we had to feed the chooks and collect the eggs. At times we had up to 50 chooks so that was quite a few eggs. I really have never been the least bit able to put myself in the shoes of a city person whose only relationship with eggs are from a carton and milk from from a bottle, all at the shop. That world is one that is so foreign to mine.
Figure 2 My cousin (left), me and my brother ready to leave for school.
We butchered our own pigs and cattle for our own consumption. I remember as a child when we needed meat the adults would drive out into the paddock in the late afternoon and when we came upon a suitable animal it would be shot ( once in the head, instant death). We would cut the carcass up into large sections and load them on the back of a very clean ute. Once home the cuts would be hung up in the shed on hooks. We would all arise very early the next morning to “cut up”. It was a big family affair. Uncles, Aunts and cousins would arrive and there would be lots of chatter as the meat was sorted, sliced and packaged. Afterwards we would enjoy a hearty breakfast of steak and eggs and have a good catch-up. I feel that the animals we ate had a very good life and they died surrounded by the trees and grass which had grown them.
Do I love animals? Absolutely. Do I eat meat? Everyday. Do I understand what it takes to get the meat on my plate? Completely. So this is where I come from with my knowledge of farming. My next thought is “So how do we get some more information to our city cousins who are so disconnected from where their food comes from?” I guess we just have to keep telling our stories and trying to reach more people. Kat is doing an awesome job of this!