Thursday, April 25, 2024

Regrets? Too few, now that you mention it 

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Steve Wyn-Harris looks back on choosing Space Invaders over a living saint, but regrets not much more than that.
Saint Teresa of Calcutta – with whom a 21-year-old Steve Wyn-Harris broke a date – had what might be excellent advice for New Zealand farmers: ‘Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.’
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“Non, je ne regrette rien.”

No, I regret nothing.

Edith Piaf’s 1960 recording of this song was a hit then and has remained a classic.

The sentiment is a good one, but I doubt if there has been a human who could honestly say that they have no regrets.

I’m fortunate in that I don’t have any major ones.

I nearly went off to Durham University to study archaeology but chickened out and travelled the well-trodden path to Lincoln College.

Lincoln was great, I had a fun time and made friends and contacts that have lasted me a lifetime.

Better still, met a young lady in Christchurch who turned out to be a terrific wife, friend and mother.

But I doubt I would have been any worse a farmer than I was in my first couple of years with an archaeological degree instead of agriculture.

Maybe in a parallel universe somewhere, eh?

I was hitchhiking around New England in the United States in the early 1980s and ended up staying with a charming family in Boston.

Therese, the mother, had just graduated from Harvard as an adult student and as John, her husband, was unable to attend as her guest, she kindly asked me to her graduation.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta, later Saint Teresa, was to deliver the Commencement Address. At a Harvard graduation!

Then her young son Sean asked if I’d like to go with him and play Space Invaders at the arcade.

Hey, I was only 21! Naïve and callow.

I’ve since read that address and it is too deeply religious for my taste.

But still there is nagging regret about that impulsive call.

I hope we don’t have regrets about where we have found ourselves as a sector.

We’ve been divided in the past over things like getting rid of the silly electoral college that used to elect directors to the industry boards; meat and dairy company takeovers and reforms; abolishing the Wool Board’s grower levy, among other things.

However, we are at a point when the common cause between the dairy sector and sheep and beef is stretched and confidence in our elected representatives on industry boards and other organisations is strained.

A historical means of subjugation has been to divide and rule but we have managed to do it to ourselves.

All over our various responses to the protracted intentions of how our sector is to deal with mitigating our effects on climate change.

I still get a steady stream of correspondents who argue climate change is a normal function of this planet and that humankind has insignificant effect upon it anyway.

I’m not of that view.

National, which set us on this path by signing the Paris Agreement and signed up to the Zero Carbon Bill, has kicked the can down the road and Labour has yet to let us know what it is planning to do with He Waka Eke Noa, but you have to think the clock has run out on that.

I say divided because although there is a decent vocal opposition to doing anything, there is also a sizeable, silent part of our industry that has been working or thinking about these issues and trying to find a pathway through this complex and divisive issue.

And then there are the young people.

I actually know some and many of them tell me they are up for these types of challenges and relish the prospect. Similar to me and my mates back in the 1980s and ’90s who saw survival through a rural recession as a decent test. To some extent, it was survival of the fittest. Or more probably of those who could adapt and be prepared to change dramatically.

As a sector, we are always going to be conservative, but we have shown we can accept, even relish change to varying challenges at times.

And have become stronger because of it.

If that statistic of the average age of the sheep and beef farmer is true about it being in the early sixties, its no wonder we are resistant to change.

It’s just natural. I feel it now. Annoyed when I must learn some new software where the old one has served me well for a couple of decades, or being forced to use my phone to interact with companies where I’d prefer the less efficient way of dealing with an actual person.

That average age can’t keep increasing forever. It’s biologically impossible.

It’s time for a generational change.

Innovative ideas, prepared to adapt and full of energy and enthusiasm.

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