That sentimental feeling

Sometimes that emotion comes at a cost - not just a monetary one either

I’VE written before about farmers who struggle because of the choices they’ve made. And sentimentality is often to blame.

“A sentimentalist is one who desires to have the luxury of an emotion without paying for it”: timeless wisdom from 19th-century British playwright, Oscar Wilde, who may not have known much about farming, but certainly knew how to use words.

At a time of year when sentiment is at the fore, I think it’s worth revisiting the unsentimental concept that the pressure some farmers put on themselves to continue to run a farm as family legacy rather than a business is ludicrous. At the end of the day, we can’t afford to think about what dad or great grandpa would have wanted.

If it’s failing to be productive, or you can’t make a go of it, sell it.

Not forgetting it wasn’t too long ago, that almost our relatives were either forced out here, or chose to come in search of a better life. Either way, sentimentality was given up when they boarded the boat or plane.

Humans are sentimental beings. And, like many others, I only have to rummage through family storage to open boxes full of primary school reports, paintings and assignments. Kept by mum, to hold onto me and my experiences she shared. But she never opens them, probably never will. Like most, she keeps the stories and images in her head to recall effortlessly whenever she wants. The value she finds in sifting through this stuff isn’t worth her time.

We’re often sentimental about events, objects, property, loved ones and of course possessions of the deceased that we wish to remember. But sometimes that emotion comes at a cost - not just a monetary one either.

Farmers learn early on that being sentimental is denying reality. Those managing livestock deal with destroying, selling and watching them die. I’ve even caught my old man growling over selling older cows that “meant something” to him. It was the start of a tough season, and the business needed them to go.

Sometimes farmers cannot even think of selling an unproductive patch of dirt, not able to see it as different to the one it was when it used to work. Management aside, some turn a blind eye, clouded with sentimentality over what’s supposed to be an income producing asset.

What’s really frustrating is when we see those who are not willing to pay the price for their choice in emotion but expect others to, with a handout. Is it fair that taxpayers should sling a cocky a five or six figure grant when he or she is struggling to make a buck because at the root of the issue lies some serious pining over pedigree property?

So beware, despite the emotion of the season, sentimentality can be an Achilles heel and something farmers need to avoid when it comes to the business of making a living.

Sam Trethewey

Sam Trethewey

grew up farming down south and now commentates on agriculture across Australia
Date: Newest first | Oldest first


17/12/2013 4:46:39 AM

The old man has always said farming is not a buisness it's just an interest, don't get exposed, work hard, never take it serious and just enjoy the lifestyle and you'll do fine. There will be a hell of a lot of empty farms if we take your advice, I suppose the couple of farmers left might make a quid when production drops and land values drop. We are not asking for a subsidy, just a fair cut of the end price would be nice. Getting sick of working harder and getting less.
17/12/2013 6:13:00 AM

Farmers who struggle on when the profit margins shrink are just sentimental fools, eh Sam?You seem to forget the terms of trade squeeze that afflicts all farmers. It means nearly everyone will have to get some practice deciding how important sentimentality is. After all, most don't like to lose what granddad started. It seems to be the case, Sam, you are always quick to blame the farmer for not being perfect according to your world view, but you never, not once, rail against the forces that make food dirt cheap and farmers forced to give up what their families built. Whose side are you on?
17/12/2013 6:31:39 AM

Farmers could make a good profit except for our own Government doing everything in its power to put us out of business. Most farmers are sick to death of farming, unless they were born with a silver spoon in their mouth and haven't had to work for what they have. Unless you have a Four million dollar farm now you cannot make a living.
17/12/2013 8:13:06 AM

Ah Sam, you have done it again. There is some value in what you say but I really wonder if we need agvocates like you, it is hard enough battling government nonsense, rabid animal rights activists as well as our friend the weather without being dragged down all the time by someone supposedly on our side. I have some land for sale even though it is selling a part of me as it is what needs to happen. Finding someone to buy is the hardest bit.
17/12/2013 9:28:32 AM

Fair point – But the reality is, sentiment and politics are inseparable. For example the rest of the world sentimentally believes food should be so cheap, even the poor will be able to afford it. They also sentimentally believe that farmers should be able to produce this cheap food, while treating commercial livestock like family pets, and commercial farm land like national parks.
17/12/2013 9:35:14 AM

One thing I have noticed over the years, is that when people end up is serious trouble it's not so much from bad decisions, as no decisions. When things start to go pear shaped, doing nothing is often the worsted option of all.
17/12/2013 9:55:15 AM

Thanks Chrissie. Please be careful where you choose to segregate people. Comment like “our side”, as already mentioned can be a very dangerous way of looking at it, especially when people look in on industry. The response we see comes from the situation and opinions of the reader. That’s why we see, that some love it, some appreciate the surfacing of a thorny issue, some don’t want to see it and a few disrespect it. All are fine, the topic is a point of view. It’s your choice how you look at it. All the best with your property, I reckon you'll learn very quickly to love another one. Sam
17/12/2013 11:51:39 AM

'Our side' is quite a legitimate statement. I hardly think animal rights activists are on 'our side'. I don't think the gaia worshippers who think farmers rape and pillage the landscape are on 'our side' either. There is a definite rural-urban gap, in case you haven't noticed. There is an urban side and there is a rural side. Not all those on the urban side are amenable to the rural side, 'our side', Sam. So whose side are you on? You are quick to blame farmers for all their ills. Worse, you are patronising too.
17/12/2013 12:51:42 PM

It is no coincidence that the 18th century ideological foundations of modern industrial culture that gave us today's 'whole of industry' perspective of farming with its 'homo-economicus' producers, also inspire practices characterised by dehumanisation and psychopathy in today's corporate environments. The last 200 years of western history demonstrates that such approaches are inherently incompatible with agriculture (and any other endeavour that depends on living systems). We need better rationale for our actions than the narrow-minded legacy of yesteryear's machiavellian bastards.
18/12/2013 7:03:11 AM

Well said Michael. Totally agree with everything you have written. Just about everyone is against farmers now, no wonder there are so many farmers taking their own lives. Its us against just about everyone. Problem is our city cousins know nothing about agriculture and are happy to hate based on lies and misinformation. Even when you try to educate them, when given the opportunity, sadly most don't want to listen.
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Get MuddyTo think clearly in farming and about farming, you need to get muddy - commit, roll up your sleeves and get involved. SAM TRETHEWEY gets stuck into some of the issues facing those on the land.


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