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This website aims to develop case studies of the development of farming practices and attendant transformations of local ecologies of defined blocks of land. Through these biographies of particular plots of land we are developing localised analyses of the wider historical trends in the political economy/ecology of the Northern Rivers.

Go to: Family history | The Farm | The River | David, Jenny and the Farm | Self-sufficiency and Aquarius | Cattle and floods | The landscape | Other on-farm agriculture | Buying and selling land | Poor economic times | Family partnership on the farm | Mill politics, harvesters and cane cutters | Changing methods | Chemicals | Market impacts and government subsidies | Generational change and succession | Impact on cane growing | Environmental issues | Politics of cane and the mill | Neighbours

Family partnership on the farm

What was your partnership role in being farmers together? Do you call yourself a farmer too Jenny or how does that work?

Jenny: my role in it is just um… a …you know a puppet role on paper for ownership and tax and things like that really. I don’t do any of it, I mean I help out….

David: and provide income when the cane prices are down.

Jenny: yeah I go and do my bit and David does his bit and I drive him around and pick him up from places and do messages and I do the accounts. I suppose I have a little role yeah. I used to have a bigger role when I was younger and I was home more often with the children. I’d go out and help with the cane planting and things like that and the children helped too, they had to get in and help. When we did cane planted especially when they were in high school and we were poor they had to sit on the cane planter all day and plant cane. They were just talking about it the other day.

David: Andrew used to go to sleep, you’d turn around and he’d be asleep.

Jenny: and Andrew wouldn’t do his share and Anna would be doing everything. She was complaining about that was supposed to be an equal b pushing the cane through the planter but he wasn’t doing it.

David: he was only about 12 and she was 14 (both chuckling).

Jenny: they were quite young. So yes, nominative role I have in the actual business of running the day to day farm but I sort of know what’s going on pretty much. When things are going wrong I know.

So 1971 you…I mean take me back if you can but perhaps we start with your actual farming experience.

David: well I always helped out when I was a kid with my father being in school holidays and college holidays we used to do tractor driving and help planting. In fact they used to gear the planting around the school holidays so I’d be here to help.

Jenny: did you get paid?

David: yep I got paid.

And do you remember in those times when you were still a kid, times when there were better times, when there were not so good times?

David: I haven’t got a vivid idea but I knew when the sugar price was down, though I didn’t know what the raw price was, by what was going on and the talk about it.

Jenny: what happened to your life though?

David: not much but they might have employed me rather than somebody else. I don’t know but I know they’d talk about the raw price going down and ‘oh dear things are looking crook.’ Then it’d come up again and everybody would plant more cane then it’d go down again and there’s sort of just thought … never ending .cycle.

And so when you started planting cane what was the market like. Do you remember where it was at?

David: I think it might have been on the way up. I seem to remember 1966 was a big expansion because things world-wide were looking rosy and it lasted a couple of years then all these new farmers who spent heaps of money in change-over from dairy or whatever and then the sugar price crashed and it probably crashed for a couple of years and then started building up again. But that’s only sort of a vague idea, I’m not too positive about that.

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