Reflections on harvest season and human challenges

  • Farmer with sheep
    [Photo source: Wendy Gibson]

Martin, a Friend of the Alliance from Teesdale in Victoria, put pen to paper postharvest on a topic close to his heart.

Harvest season is not just about grand photos of massive headers gliding across endless fields of wheat, barley, beans or canola. It’s not just about the wonderful food we produce that finds its way onto our tables, both in Australia and across the complex logistical travel routes of overseas markets. It’s more than that. It is, or it should be, about those who make it all happen.

For many people, food is just a convenience that ends up on their table with little thought about the many people responsible for providing the end product. Meanwhile, an army of farmers, contractors, truck drivers and seasonal workers from all parts of the globe are involved in the grinding, hot, dusty, choking and trying harvest season.

Farming today is characterised by constant change – from needing to respond to daily fluctuations in weather to the complexity of thoughtful climate change policy. These matters are important, but so too is the often-unrecognised importance of human need, which frequently is underestimated by funding requirements and creators of policy initiatives.

I’m in the fortunate position of being a Cross Breed{X}. I believe it’s called lived experience.

This season, like others, when not doing social work, I’ve been operating Hoopers that sees hundreds of trucks and drivers unloading their valuable produce. One is directly involved in people’s lives, whether it’s within a short period of few minutes, or longer when unloading a Bdouble with a dolly attached to it.

So, you can be more than an operator of machinery. One is able to assist in a critical manner regarding the issues facing these farmers, such as navigating the puzzle of accessing health services – who can they turn to so that their child can receive specialised medical or clinical intervention, dealing with loss or grief, aged care, palliative care support, housing needs or emergency relief when their income literally dries up.

The great challenge ahead for policy creators and providers of health services is to directly involve primary producers and associated agricultural industries. No easy task – but it can be done.

One small but critical step is working at a local level with grain receiving centres, farming communities, truck companies and employment services. It involves locating staff with a farming background or alternatively those with a committed passion for working in rural and remote communities. Up close and personal in these centres, new ways of ‘doing health care’ can be effectively delivered.

Not surprisingly, there will be some reluctance to this approach. But the one thing that this pandemic has generated is that service delivery can be done differently.

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