GM family feels emotional strain

20 May, 2011 04:10 AM
THE Baxter family of Kojonup - Ashley (13 - left), Codey (10) Michael, Zanthe and Rhys (15) remain strong and can still smile after events of the past six months.
THE Baxter family of Kojonup - Ashley (13 - left), Codey (10) Michael, Zanthe and Rhys (15) remain strong and can still smile after events of the past six months.

THE Baxter family is sure they’ve done nothing wrong but they can’t help feeling the emotional strain.

Ongoing publicity surrounding their highly publicised battle with neighbouring organic farmer, Stephen Marsh, has placed undue pressure on the family unit over the past six months.

That feeling has also spread throughout the wider Kojonup community with residents holding varying opinions on the issue.

While Michael Baxter has spoken of the family’s decision to proceed with their GM canola seeding this year, his wife, Zanthe, spoke of the psychological and emotional toll the legal threats have taken.

She says it's hard enough being a mother in the bush some days.

But the added strain of facing threatening legal action makes her worried about the potential impact on her three young boys.

Like many country wives and mothers, Zanthe sees herself as part of the backbone that holds her family together.

If she's not running around on the farm she's racing in and out of town, attending school assemblies, taking the boys to sport or cooking, cleaning, washing and generally supporting the four males in her life.

But underneath her jovial exterior, it's clear the legal threats coming from next door, bolstered by the prevarication of the anti-GM camp, have taken their toll.

"It's heartbreaking and it has really had an affect on our family,” Zanthe said.

And it's not just Michael and Zanthe Baxter who deal with the pressure on a daily basis.

It has affected their three school-aged boys too.

Zanthe held back tears as she explained how her 10 year old son asked if they would lose the family farm because of the anti-GM crusade.

"A 10 year old boy should be out there dreaming about becoming a good football player," she said.

"He should be chasing sheep with his dad and riding his motorbike not worrying about if he’s going to have a farm to come back to."

Some days Zanthe has shed tears with everything seeming all too hard.

But the constant banter from anti-GM groups has only steeled the Baxters’ resolve.

They are also grateful for the support of the Pastoralists’ and Graziers’ Association and others who have lent a caring hand during a difficult time.

Zanthe said the battle with their neighbour had hardened her husband’s attitude but she wants to protect his caring spirit.

"He's the most awesome dad and he loves those boys more than words can say," Zanthe said.

"I don't want my husband to come out of this a changed man."

Her sons Rhys (15), Ashley (13) and Codey (10) see a long future in their family farm and want to run the business one day.

They have always been encouraged to return to the farm after they had completed an apprenticeship, travelled or taken some time away to gain a broader outlook on life.

The boys have read about the Marsh legal challenge and heard stories in the media but have grown tired of the media hype and questioning from other students at their schools.

The Baxters believe they were singled out and targeted by their neighbour and others that may be assisting the anti-GM cause.

Many of the Baxters’ other neighbours have expressed support and backed the family’s cropping rotation 100 per cent.

"There's nothing anti-organic in our argument," Zanthe said.

"We're just presenting the facts."

Her husband is also community minded captaining the tennis club, president of the junior football club and local fire chief, in between farming and parenting duties.

Last Week Rural Press revealed the Baxters had withstood a mountain of external pressure to forge ahead with plans to use Genetically Modified canola again, in their 2011 cropping program.

Despite ongoing threats of legal action from their organic farming neighbour over alleged “contamination” from last year’s crop, they planted 160 hectares of Roundup Ready canola having been encouraged by its performance last year.

The new technology was used to improve the farm’s weed control management strategy which helped them clean up several paddocks.

Michael is now looking forward to growing wheat and barley on those paddocks.

FarmOnline National News Bureau, Parliament House, CanberraSource:
Date: Newest first | Oldest first


20/05/2011 6:13:56 AM

Definition of a slow learner, “Keep repeating the same mistakes over and over and expecting a different outcome.” The Baxter’s need to change their agronomy adviser for starters, stop polluting their property and their neighbours with GM, stop putting the family at risk from the toxic chemicals they are using, understand why they have weeds and read the following article: eprints/May2011_Huber.pdf If one deliberately starts a fire on your property that burns out your neighbour, you are liable. GM contamination is no different. Too many farmers are being hoodwinked into the assumed benefits of GM. There are none as GM is not safe, not sustainable, not required. When the Baxters wake up to this they will begin to understand the massive errors of their foolish decision to grow GM.
Madeleine Love
20/05/2011 7:06:15 AM

It was all in Baxter's control. He had lots of options. He chose to exercise them. Consequences arrived.
20/05/2011 7:09:18 AM

What a beautiful family and I feel for there struggle. I hope they can overtime there stress. Although I can't help believe this was caused by a poor decision to go for GM crops and not other alternatives. Not only has this GM farm caused problems for a neighbouring farmer but potentially long term disruption of natural systems. There are better alternatives to GM.
Ian Mott
20/05/2011 8:17:42 AM

Hold your ground, Zanthe. These people are not going to court because neither the facts nor the legal principles support their case. I have been involved in a number of such cases and it is always the family "vibe canary" the wife who bears most of the emotional burden. But you need to distinguish between the smoke and mirrors and the actual conduct of the battle. If they had any serious case at all they would have already slapped an injunction on you for this years crop. They didn't. And that lack of a case is why the anti-GM branch of "rent-a-zombie-nutter" have redoubled their media campaign. The reason they won't go to court is the fact that the legal system is still the place where reasonable men and women in possession of the facts call the shots. They may bluff. And they may even start an action but they have far too much to lose by going all the way. And don't worry about your son's question. It was an intelligent one to ask. And the fact that they have been exposed to the ugly face of persecution will make all three of them better men.
Brownlows Dad
20/05/2011 8:42:21 AM

The WA Government has seen fit to allow GMs to be grown in their state. Therefore, the Baxters are merely farming with the best available knowledge, and not breaking any rules so the problem should not be theirs. We have all had trouble with vexatious neighbours, and there is usually no satisfying them, especially if they are on 'mission from god'. Organic neighbours are the worst, they are like Jehovas witnesses except they don't go away. They seem to have an infinite source of poorly defined superior information that they glean from dubious sites on the internet which 'proves' its all a global conspiracy, and waste your time with their smug, sanctimonious know-it-all, holier-than- though, self righteous sermons. The Baxters are right to tell them to p**s off.
Truth seeker
20/05/2011 10:31:36 AM

Hey ggwagga - Don’t let the facts contaminate your story. Speaking of fire, if you're trying to be inflamatory using half truths and ignorance to fuel your false argument, it's not really working.
spare us
20/05/2011 11:48:07 AM

TO ggwagga It's a good thing that GREEN PEACE haven't hoodwinked any one!!
Farmer Greg
20/05/2011 12:55:55 PM

Totally agree with Truth Seeker and Ian Mott, 99% of GM research revolves around isolating the gene in your case that gives the wheat resistance to Glyphosate. Scientists basically do in one generation what nature does in a hundred generations. That is why your neighbour has not already taken you to court and won. There is so much voodoo about GM it's not funny. The only issue that arises from using GM wheat is that when you want to change to barley say it will be difficult to eradicate the wheat from your paddock to plant in the barley. Otherwise what's so bad, you get bigger and better yields, there is less work to do keeping the weeds at bay and for certain crops fungal diseases etc. are a thing of the past. Good luck for the future.
Ian Mott
20/05/2011 3:25:24 PM

I'm expecting the rent-a-zombie-nutter folk to disappear in the rapture tomorrow. They are already speaking in tongues.
you serious?
20/05/2011 3:37:12 PM

@ ggwagga - when the second sentence of a paper is "Genetic selection to improve crops began only when people invented farming" no serious or intelligent person would waste their time reading any further... genetic selection has been occuring since time began.
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