Over the past few years an idealised image of a kind of hero farmer has emerged – typically it’s an earthy yet evolved being in a pair of weathered overalls and chequered shirt gathering colourful heirloom produce for farmers market stands and veggie box schemes. These tough, gentle folk are often credited with having a sort of telepathic relationship with their soils, crops and animals and are increasingly being put up on pedestals to be revered. Now being a hero is better than being portrayed as a hick or a bumpkin but it can also raise expectations that are hard to live up to – witness Joel Salatin fans having no problem eating his salad bar beef and pastured poultry but struggling to digest his Libertarian beliefs.
Like everyone, farmers come in all shapes and sizes but making them into role models is just as problematic as doing it to our footballers or pop stars. However, if there’s anyone who could help balance this stereotype then the perfect farmer to do it would be Joe Sgro from Foothill Organics. Now Joe (that’s him in the pic above) is one of Victoria’s most respected organic growers but he’s also as human as they come. In these YouTube days you might expect to find a sunny slomo clip of Joe’s smiling farm workers bringing in the harvest to the strains of a jaunty ukulele as peach blossoms blow all around (ouch sounds a bit like our welcome video). But I think maybe the clip that could be more helpful at evening out our perceptions would be one of Joe in the pouring rain, out the back of his hopelessly bogged tractor, hammering a bent rotary hoe back into shape while he swears blue murder with every blow. Scenes of farmer’s being fallible take place across our country every hour of every day and that’s as it should be – because farmers are just human beings too.
As you might have gathered Joe Sgro is no hipster farmer- like his father before him Joe grows hardy crops like potatoes, leeks, beetroot, turnips and silverbeet. But he does have a softer, even slightly flamboyant side which you can see this week in his joyously purple Midnight Pearl spuds. Joe only grows a few and you can find them here.