Farmwork 3.0

Everything is going just fine and dandy. I’m picking up just shy of 30 hours a week now which still isn’t fantastic but certainly an improvement on three hours! 

I have recently just been confirmed in the potato shed sorting potatoes and all being well I should be in there now until I leave mid November. Allegedly the money and hours in the potato shed are extremely appealing once we get into the peak season, which is why I hear a lot of backpackers calling the potato team ‘lucky’. Whilst I don’t feel unlucky that I’ve managed to land myself a pretty much permanent and less back-breaking role, I most certainly don’t feel lucky either. It may be one of the easiest jobs in the industry physically but mentally even after just 4 days I’m already going bat-shit crazy. 

I’ve dreamt about potatoes two nights in a row now.

Again I feel like I’m in the same position but just a year on. ‘A means to an end.’ Something I used to say whilst on the floating Thai prison in France this time last year (it was actually a quaint little river cruise but less on that.) Again, I’m stuck doing something I really don’t enjoy but sticking it out anyway because it will get me where I need to be next. Exactly here in Australia. 

Yes. Just short of four months of hell to stay exactly where I am. It sounds pretty dumb when you put it like that but oh well.

I’m over five weeks in now which means technically I only have another eight to go. Because I love it here so much though, I am probably going to stay just a little bit longer just to ensure I see to the 88 days necessary. Not only that, if the money is going to be as good as I’ve been told then I would be pretty stupid to leave as soon as my 13th week comes to a close. Hopefully I will be financially comfortable by the time it’s my birthday in November, so I can skip out of little old Gatton with a bottle of gin strapped to each hand never to see a potato ever again. 

Watermelon planting- one of very few photos I’ve taken at work

Now my post is going to take a bit of a bleak and some what academic turn (minus the references) because I cannot help but notice the sheer amount of waste of produce in the agricultural industry other wise known as Agribusiness. So far I’ve worked on: lettuce, garlic, potatoes, beetroot, watermelons, celery and broccoli and I am shocked (but in the same sense not surprised) at how much food is simply regarded as inedible and unworthy of distribution.

I studied Global Development at university. So whilst I understand that agribusiness is exactly that, business, I find it incredibly worrying that in the 21st Century, where 795 million people still do not have enough food to support a healthy lifestyle, that a potato is simply thrown away all for being disfigured. The high standard of cosmetic expectations in the western world means that food is wasted before it even reaches the shelf at Coles, all because Monica, 24, from Sydney wouldn’t dream of buying an oddly shaped avocado. Ew. That would just make your smashed avo on granary taste awful, right? 

Australians throw away $8 billion of edible food produce each year. Now I’m not saying that non-westernised countries don’t waste food, of course they do. The difference being that the waste at the production level is due to poor equipment and lack of infrastructure not because of cosmetic standards. When the food reaches the consumption stage however there is minimal wastage in less developed nations. This boils down to A. Our switching attitudes towards food in the developed world and B. (In my opinion) the fact that the food industry is as corrupt as FIFA. 

Our unsustainable food industry wants us to think that if we don’t eat our food before the use by date we should throw it away to avoid getting sick. Realistically though, if you eat the tin of tuna you just bought in 2026, you’re probably not going to die. But what good is having food produce with lengthy sell by/use by dates for multi billionaires like Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, Chairman and former CEO of The Nestlé Group. 

Now obviously the industry that I’m working in doesn’t adhere to the same ethical standards as Nestlé and yes obviously fresh produce such as fruit and vegetables are more vulnerable to ‘going off’ than a KitKat. I am more trying to point out our attitudes towards food than anything else. Our attitudes havn’t always been so blasé though. My Nanna, even now, saves a few gratings of cheese (that she couldn’t quite manage to pack into her cheese and tomato sarnie) in a tiny piece of cling film in the fridge. So why then have we switched from saving every last crumb during the World War(s) to not giving a fuck that we just threw out 1.3 billion tonnes of food as a global community?!

People are starving to death. Literally dying because they haven’t got enough food in their tummies and we’re fussy when it comes to the shape/size/use by date of a fucking cucumber. I’m starting to swear more because it infuriates me. 40% of the food produced in the US is never eaten. 40%?!? THAT’S ALMOST HALF!! It says a lot when even the fattest nation in the world don’t even eat 40% of their produced food!! Again it comes down to the unethical measures food companies take in order to make a few billion dollars. Meanwhile 21,000 people will die today around the world through starving to death. Tragic.

And yet I’m absolutely helpless. Sure I can start slipping a few freakishly looking potatoes down the ‘good to go’ shoot but that could cost me my job and that’s not going to feed 795 million mouths is it? So what the fuck can I do?! Even if I bag the manky potatoes up and take them home to eat, sure they won’t be wasted but it won’t solve world hunger. Jesus I sound like such a hippy right now. It saddens me that we’ve got to this stage in civilisation where money and being profitable takes priority over empty stomaches. We waste enough food to solve food hunger but we proceed to produce and waste it anyway. We actually live in a day and age where it’s more profitable to be wasteful but at what cost? The cost of our environment and under-developed countries. I can’t change our food industry or our attitudes single handedly- I’m not so naive to think that I can. All I do know is I’ve lost my appetite for this bullshit phenomenon we have the cheek to call a system. 

In an attempt to ‘do something about it’ I signed up to ‘Live Below The Line’, a global campaign where people across the world live off $2 a day for 5 days. The campaign originates from Australia but has since spread to the UK, USA, Canada and New Zealand. It’s purpose is to raise money for projects to help fight against world poverty and raise awareness of the poverty line. The challenge is a tiny insight to the hardships of those living on less than $2 a day. The challenge, unlike actually living below the line of poverty, doesn’t include water, housing, travel or gas and electricity as that would be impossible to do without going completely homeless. The Australian branch of the campaign funds projects in Australia’s neighbouring countries to educate their youth to give them a more sustainable future.

Now I initially thought the campaign ran all year round and you could take part any time you like but it in fact launches every May. So I can’t even do that (yet) to make me feel slightly better about the fact that roughly 900 people just died of starvation whilst I wrote this post. I will be taking part in May though, that is a promise. So I’m going to donate the beer money I would have spent in the Royal tonight to Actions Against Hunger. You can donate too. Here’s the link.


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