Twice, directly, conflict in the Korean Peninsula has affected my family. In 1951, my stepfather Dick got a record price for his wool clip. A returned serviceman he’d got a rehabilitation loan to buy the run-down farm he now worked. He was one of the lucky ones.
It changed our lives. Instead of an old creaky truck we now had a new car. Mum had a washing machine – no longer the copper labour on Monday. An indoor toilet was added to the house – I got pocket-money digging the hole for the septic tank. Mum stopped making butter, we bought it from the grocers. She went to town (Christchurch) and bought clothes off the peg – no longer long hours of home dress-making.
I didn’t realise the enormity of paying off early some of the loan. But I did see and use the tracks bulldozed around the farm. That cheque greatly improved our lives. Market forces at work though as a boy I didn’t understand that. The soldiers fighting in the Korean chill needed woollen clothing. Dick was fortunate. His bales came up for sale in the midst of a buying frenzy.
My half-brother Bruce and his wife Margaret have a deer-farm near Methven. I had an email from Margaret the other day. I quote: ‘All is well on the farm. Little fawns running around early morning and late evening. So very cute. Velveting is going well with some big heads being cut off. All buying has ceased at the moment because of what is happening in Korea.’
Quite a while ago I rather scornfully said to Bruce he was making a living off a superstition that deer antler velvet was an aphrodisiac. He countered with scientific arguments. Apparently it is rich in nutrients. He showed me research proving this. There are now natural dietary supplements advertised throughout New Zealand.
I accept that my scorn was misplaced. Certainly, better deer-farming than killing tigers for the organs or rhinos for their horns. And deer provide venison one of the tastiest and fat-free meats available. I’ve always enjoyed visiting Bruce’s place. The animals look so regal. Bruce, like his father, is a farmer who cares for his animals.
Talking of farming, sow crates are to be phased out by 2005. Good! An inhumane practice. But I read Fontera is to have dairy farms in China with cow barns. I don’t like the idea of off-shoring practices we are not prepared to use here.
I know in Europe farm animals are kept in barns over the winter. Indeed in the old days they were housed underneath the house. But these were not factory farms. In season the animals went out to the meadows.
Our reputation as a food source has been based upon our grass economy with animals outside all year. We need to remember that.