more country calendar

March 13th, 2008

Just watched the second disk of that Country Calendar DVD I rambled on about this morning. I was disappointed to see it had only two programmes and an interview with the Country Calendar reporter, the guy who’s been doing this programme since well before I can remember. But there’s good news.

That theme of progressive and organic and biodynamic farming methods I rambled on about this morning? Present very strongly in the two programmes on that second disk I just watched, and the word “sustainable” popped up at least once in the interview.

The first programme was about a marine biologist who decided to experiment with farming whitebait in an estuary on the Waikato coast. He wasn’t making terribly much money off it, and he ran his farm almost literally on the smell of an oily rag and the myriad things your typical Kiwi bloke can do with a bit of No. 8 wire– well, actually, he bartered whitebait and perhaps a few eel and other fish that pass through an estuary for things like yeast waste from the local winery or other sources of nutrients for the plankton he fed to his whitebait, and he used the shit of his own cows for the same purpose, in addition to scavanging roadsides for bits and pieces he could use in the fish-feeding water wheels and sluice gates he built himself. In fact, this guy was as close to the perfect marriage between the highly intelligent academic type and your typical, down to earth, practical Kiwi bloke as it is possible to find in one man as I’ve ever seen.

And he just bubbled with enthusiasm. Gotta love that, somebody who just loves their work so much they make you want to take your shoes off, roll up you trouser legs, and wade into the mud with him.

[and yes, in the following paragraph, I am inserting a huge amount of my emotional response to this guy’s work and words]

But the key was, at the same time he obviously hoped he could turn his project into a proper money-spinner, he was really into the environmental benefits of his work. At the start of the project he pointed out the absurdity of spending huge amounts of money and energy (fuel and manpower) on a huge trawler to rape the environment when you can sit at the estuary using bugger all energy and even less money and have the fish do all the work for you- protecting the environment by making money, or making money by protecting the environment. Brilliant.

And of course, farming whitebait means you have to restore estuaries, and estuaries are hugely productive but highly vulnerable ecosystems. Restoring them to make money means you’re protecting the environment by making money, or making money by protecting the environment. Bloody brilliant.

And what really impressed me was that although his work was hard and lonely and cold and really did not bring in very much money, if any (there were legal issues complicating matters, issues related to water rights and his right to sell “by-catch” like eels- barter was the best he could do with that “by-catch”- but don’t expect either the current government or the next to get off their fat arses and make the necessary changes), his wife was fully 100% supportive.

Damn, that’s one hell of a woman.

Don’t get me wrong, my wife is fully supportive of what I do, and she’s right behind getting me into what those Yanks call “grad school”, I’m just saying it takes an incredible woman to support her husband through a project like that.

perhaps if we lived in a more egalitarian society….

Anyway, the second programme was about a crayfisherman based in Kaikoura. Part of this programme was a little frustrating in that I just wanted to scream “Of course there’s stacks of crayfish in Kaikoura! How the hell do you think the place got its name?!?!?!?!?”

(For the non-Kiwi readers: Kai means food, koura means crayfish)

But what really impressed me was that this guy took such good care of his fishery. Sure, he was relying alot on both the quota system and something as vague as tradition in a fishing industry that has had a rather rough history, but he’d established his rights, legally and culturally, to his patch of ocean and he took good care of his fishery. He made sure his catch was sustainable and there was plenty left for his, his kids’ and his grandkids’ future.

And he admitted that fuel was his biggest cost and that was only going to grow and that long-term he’d have to find a way around this problem…

But what impressed me most about this particular programme is that the editor left entirely intact one section of on-boat interview that paused because crayfisherman and interviewer noticed a Hector’s dolphin swimming nearby. Nice touch. I’m not at all surprised that a fisherman and a reporter specialising in rural affairs had the heart to stop and admire such a special part of the natural world, but I am pleasantly surprised that an editor left that intact in the programme.

Comments are closed.