Against the Grain is a message of climate change hope -- not just "if only" hope, but feet on the ground, hands in the dirt, proven, practical action and solutions hope.
The farmers and their farms
All but one of the fourteen are in Victoria, Australia’s south-eastern state, in the area being hardest hit by climate change. The other is a little north of the border, in New South Wales.
In Against the Grain you will meet:
- Marian Macdonald -- dairy farmer, 250 cows on 200 hectares.
- Bob & Anne Davie -- premium beef cattle, 156 hectares.
- Ross McDonald -- grain cropping and sheep, 809 hectares.
- Bernie Fox and Susan Hayman-Fox -- native plant seed farming, 621 hectares.
- Allen Hart -- vineyard producing premium wines, 58 hectares.
- John Ive -- top price extra-ultrafine wool, 250 hectares.
- John and Robin Pettigrew -- formerly fruit growers, now beef producers.
- Ian Christoe -- wheat, beans and other cropping, and sheep,
- Mark McKew -- sheep, 420 hectares.
- Steve Hobbs -- crops wheat, barley, oats, and canola, 809 hectares.
- Doug Brown -- orchardist.
- Mark Wootton -- cattle and sheep grower, 6677 hectares.
- John and Sue Anderson -- formerly dairy, now beef cattle.
- Jerry and Terry Browning -- dairy cattle agistment, 800 hectares.
While the farmers’ "professional" body, the Victorian Farmers’ Federation, ignores climate change, these fourteen individual farmers are tackling it head on.
The nation's breadbasket
Australia’s south-east, Victoria, Southern New South Wales, and south-eastern South Australia, is an important part of the nation’s bread basket, and the source of food exports that help power the Australia's economy.
When climate scientists began modeling the climate changing world, they affirmed that this fertile corner would be hard hit by climbing temperatures, declining rainfall, increased evaporation, and loss of reliable seasonal rainfall with the shift of some of it to increased storm weather in the summer months -- the very time when crops are maturing and ripening.
"The farmers are going to have a hard time," many commentators said. More thoughtful people considered what the farmers produce -- Australia's food. If the farmers were going to have a hard time keeping production (and profit) up, then the nation's food supply was in jeopardy.
Sources of advice
The Victorian Farmers’ Federation, tied to the conservative National Party politically, has long maintained a blind eye to climate change (search on their website; no mention of "climate") but individual farmers did not. (The National Farmers' Federation does mention climate change but clearly in a political, defensive context rather than a practical one.)
The fourteen farmers who feature in Against the Grain -- and increasing numbers of other individual farmers -- began seeking advice from less conservative sources. Two big ones: Landcare groups and the Environmental Farmers’ Network.
Today, these farmers are not only winning the battle against climate change, they are actively campaigning and teaching others how they can do it too.
The stories told by these individual farmers in this book say: "We can do it! We can beat climate change, we can grow and sell food at a profit, and in doing that, we can set up sustainable systems that not only defy climate change now but contribute to reducing it in the future."