THE JOYS OF BEING A FARMER IN OZ

Now, while I understand there are a number of problems supposedly associated with global warming (but do not necessarily agree with them), my main sympathy lies with our farmers – on whose shoulders the demands will be levied in order for Australia to meet the Paris Accord.

Because of the predilection of our livestock to excessively fart (and our farm machinery to belch out huge amounts of noxious fumes), the onus will be on them to drastically cull both farm animals and machinery whilst, at the same time, pay increasing prices for energy as the country attempts to reach what, to me, seems to be unrealistic alternative energy targets.

But, one has to ask, are we the only country that is attempting to adhere to such targets? (And, if so, will we make the slightest difference?) As we know, the USA has pulled out of the whole shebang and is happily building more coal and gas-fired power stations – as are many other countries, such as China, India and Indonesia. And, as well, it’s pretty obvious that none of these countries will be culling anything and, instead, will continue business as usual (using, in most cases, Australia’s gas and clean coal to do so).

So, where does this leave Australia? Up a creek without a paddle is a phrase that springs to mind. As does the fact that, whilst our energy is being put to good use around the world, our general populace can’t afford to heat or cool their homes, and businesses (as well as farmers) are facing an uncertain future, as power bills continue to escalate.

But, we’ll be fine, won’t we, because this country is destined to become the food bowl of Asia. If I hear that once more, I’m going to scream! Because the farms that are supposedly going to supply all the bounty are not only going to be affected by the adherence to the Paris Accord, but are also faced with the problems that are always associated with farming in Australia – drought, flood and let’s not forget the high cost of labour (that is if you can persuade anyone to actually work on your farm). And, then there is another significant problem – only a small amount of Australia is arable and much of that land, as we speak, is being gobbled up, as farms are being crowded out by councils and governments rezoning these areas for housing. Areas like Werribee just outside Melbourne, which was where much of Victoria’s greens were grown – now, as the locals say: “As the housing gets closer, even though we were here first, it is a problem because practices like spreading fertiliser, spraying agri-chemicals or running farm machinery 24 hours a day is not compatible with our urban neighbours.” Added to this is the fact that, because of this urban sprawl, speculators are buying up farmland at highly inflated prices and then sitting on it (unused), as they lobby the various authorities to have it rezoned. And, anyone who has ever watched a local council or state government at work will know exactly how that ends. (I know I digress, but look at all the Melbourne pubs that have been pulled down recently to make way for apartments. What is the common excuse? “We weren’t asked soon enough for protection.” What a load of bullocks! Isn’t that what you were elected to do – protect?)

But, back to the problems in the bush, which are fast becoming an Australia-wide problem.

First of all, we need to get out of the Paris Accord (and not just shelve it – get out of it completely). Then we need to fire up new clean coal or gas (or even nuclear) fired power stations. The urban crawl also has to be addressed – cutting migration would help, but so would an insistence that migrants must locate to regional areas – not Melbourne and Sydney, as is the current norm. And, not just for a year or so. Fruit picking anyone? Now, there’s a thought! And, above all, start building dams to conserve the water when it does fall. (Do you realise that only 1 per cent of the water that falls on this continent is saved?)

Hopefully, with our recent change in leadership, we have a Prime Minister who has the guts to tackle these problems head on. Then we can forget about farting cows and seriously talk about being the food bowl of Asia, rather than sitting back and watching as increasing numbers of farmers leave the land.

ps.  Obviously, the powers have begun listening to me, because in the past weeks not only have they been talking about coal, but they have also spoken of dams in the Northern Territory and migrants being forced to spend five years in regional areas where there is work available. Hopefully, this is not just hot air and we can look forward to a rosier future for the bush, especially now that the previous Prime Minister has sulked off home with bat and ball.

VALE VALERIO NUCCI

It was with great sadness that I read that Valerio Nucci had passed on. The founding chef of both Cafe di Stasio and Richmond’s Grand (where he was also an owner), I have been privileged to eat many a meal prepared by this master.

Because of his predilection for cooking good, fairly simple food that always used the very best ingredients and had tonnes of flavour, I always regarded Valerio as a chef after my own heart.

He had no truck with fancy pants rubbish and, in a day and age when Italian cooking in Melbourne was still dominated by the stodgy offerings of yesteryear, his light, fresh food was a revelation. I will always remember his light touch with pasta and protein alike and the fact that an accompaniment to a dish may have been as simple as a few slices of tomato, but always the perfect tomato (I often wondered where he found them) dressed with the best olive oil, a few drops of superior balsamic, a couple of perfect tiny basil leaves and a judicious amount of seasoning. Perfection on a plate! But, as any half decent chef will tell you, perfect simplicity is hard to achieve.

I often had a drink with Valerio after service at Donlvey’s George Hotel when I first set up Tolarno and I must admit we rarely spoke about culinary matters (except for my enquiries about those bloody tomatoes, to which I never received a satisfactory answer). The state of Fitzroy Street always interested him, as did what the rather diverse locals were up to. But, above all, he was just a good bloke to have a drink with.

When he moved to the Grand, I visited him fairly regularly over the years. And, whilst he was rarely in the kitchen in the latter years, his food philosophy remained.

I am told he then returned to Italy to run a family property and, if this was the case, I’m sure he would also have excited the Italians with his precise, flavoursome cooking.

Valerio, to my mind, was one of the forerunners of Melbourne’s food revolution and, as I mentioned before, I was lucky enough to enjoy his inspired cooking and have certainly missed both his company and his cooking alike in recent years.

 

note:  Valerio Nucci was a chef in Melbourne, Australia