There was no lightning cracking over these cane fields last weekend, but this was a part of Australia I had never been to before.
I was driven around by my dad who had been married to a sugar cane farmer’s daughter for 10 years. I got the ‘industry’ tour, with all of the ins and outs of sugar processing pointed out to me.
I learned new terminology like ‘Burdekin Snow’ and ‘Burdekin Trash’: the ash from the burning off and the debris from cane respectively. In fact, the Burdekin is central to transport, life and livelihood here. This is the Burdekin bridge and the Burdekin River which irrigates the fields.
I met third and fourth generation sugar cane farmers, whose origins were Greek, Italian and Spanish.
One of the most interesting people I met, though, was a woman who worked with government in groundwater, and her views on irrigation, separation of land and water titles and metering were thought provoking. Instead of working against nature, she argued, farmers need to learn to work with it. As an outsider, I agreed with her position. But I don’t think she has an easy job convincing people who have done things to the land their way for generations. There was a lot of talk of ‘spraying’, ie pesticides. I know industry and home production are two very different kettles, but I fear the increasing use of pesticides as humans pursue greater domination over the environment in the face of crashing global sugar prices.
Water nearby was also valued for fishing and swimming. And quite a welcome view after driving through cane field after cane field after cane field.
I am actually quite tall!!