On Sustainable Growth

14 03 2013

I take more than a passing interest on a particular TV show in this country, and of course I’m talking about The Gourmet Farmer on SBS…..  fat pig farmBeen watching it right from the start, the story of a Sydney foodie moving to Tasmania to begin a new life growing and eating and then selling local food at the markets.  And he picked the Huon Valley, which made loads of sense to me, it’s my favourite bit of Tassie.  It was around that time that I decided we should make a similar move, so I’ve been watching Matthew Evans’ progress with much interest….

Of course he had no clue.  He freely admits this himself.  And there’s nothing like the school of hard knocks to force clues into you!  I watched with glee as he brought a wood burning cooker into his kitchen – then struggled to make it work…  Having to build a possum proof fortress around his first veggie patch also comes to mind, but what quickly became obvious to me was that he had picked the wrong farm, with far too much South facing slopes, a real killer this far from the Equator.  I even told him so on his blog.  Which he never replies to.  I don’t doubt many of the friends with the right expertise whom he met down there told him as much, because if you’re growing your own food, you would undoubtedly know and understand the difference.

So Matt and his new wife (who I suspect is the real green thumb in this marriage) bought a new farm at Glazier’s Bay, much of it North facing, where I too ironically had my eye on a couple of properties which have now sold (neither were the one he bought).  In fact, I am almost certain I had a really good look at the place they eventually chose, but at 70 acres, it was way way bigger than I need, and almost certainly, from memory, well out of our budget……  but I remember thinking what a great spot it would be to start a co-op of sorts with like minded Permies to start a sustainable farm…!  If I didn’t already have friends in Geeveston, I would pick Glazier’s Bay too……

It very quickly became obvious to me that they had far too many pigs on the old Puggle Farm (where they still live – the new farm has no house).  The carrying capacity was limited on that patch of land, very few people appreciate or understand carrying capacity….  that’s why we are in the mess we are in now, and on a global scale.  We raised just two saddle back piglets here on our even smaller farmlet, and they stretched our carrying capacity.  By the end of the last drought, we literally had nothing left for our three goats to eat, resorting to trimming trees from outside our place which to my self sufficient way of thinking was bordering on failure.

Casting my usual critical/sceptical eye on things, as I watched Matthew move his pigs from Puggle Farm to Fat Pig Farm, I could not help wondering how long it would take him to overstock this place?  Because it seems to me the Evans family has fallen to the growth monster.  If they read this (and I hope they do) I don’t write this to be mean or anything… it’s what I do!a-common-ground-shop

Their overheads must’ve gone into overdrive……  they’ve switched from a Salamanca Market stall to a permanent place in the Salamanca Arts Centre they share with Nick the cheesemaker (from Bruny Island I think…) they’ve called A Common Ground.  Looks great, don’t get me wrong….  I actually really like it.  But it worries me that they seem totally unaware of the looming collapse…

The whole Tassievore movement is in my opinion one of the most attractive things about living in Tasmania, it’s why I want to live there, it’s why I want our kids to live there….  but when Matthew speaks of driving from Cygnet to Hobart (and now Glazier’s Bay) regularly, my eyes glaze over and I can’t help thinking “how much longer do they think they can do this?”  And how much longer will there be busloads of tourists visiting Salamanca Place?  And whilst it is utterly none of my business, I can’t help wondering how much debt they’re into now…….  especially when just yesterday, this came up on the ABC’s news site:

Bankers winning the battle, losing the war
By online business reporter Michael Janda

Leading economist and financial analyst Gerard Minack, one of the few who largely foresaw the global financial crisis, is warning that another and potentially worse economic storm is brewing.In his latest Downunder Daily note, Mr Minack warns that the very actions central bankers are taking now, that have done so much to inflate share markets and restore economic confidence, are sowing the seeds of the next crisis.

It’s one thing the growth monster gobbling up idiots……  it’s quite another when it does it to really nice people whose only fault is they are trying (and working) hard to do the right thing…  I can only wish them all the very best of luck.  I can’t help but feel they’re going to need it.

The Gourmet Farmer is a great show by the way, a breath of fresh air……  I encourage you all who read this (in Australia) to watch it……