This week I talked to Fair Food’s grape grower, Peter Kamvissis, from Merbein up near Mildura about the freak tornado and hail storm that came through last Friday night.
Peter says it was like something out of a movie with trees coming down, grape vines all over the place and so many sheets of tin flying around in the air. He was amazed nobody was killed, although a tree fell on his niece’s car and she had to climb out of the back window and the entire roof came off his neighbour ‘s house and landed in a paddock 1/2 a km away.
Peter has lived up here all his life and it was the first time he’s seen a storm like it, he says, “It’s just the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my life – you wouldn’t believe it – posts holding up vines have broken clean off, all the long canes that bear fruit are gone.”
Luckily no hail hit Peter and Helen’s place and they only a lost few trees, but Peter feels for his neighbours, “Lots have lost next year’s buds off their vines, so they won’t harvest for up to two years. They’re looking at government grants but I don’t know what they’re going to do.”
Reading the ABC’s rural news just this past week you get the idea that it’s not just the of hundreds of fruit, nut and cereal producers along the Murray in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales who have been hit by freak weather lately there’s a pattern of increasing freakishness happening all over the country. These are reports out just this week;
In NSW the Bureau of Meteorology has labelled the past five months as the wettest period on record in New South Wales with crop damage expected to exceed $680 million and livestock production also impacted.
In WA it’s been the worst year for frost in Western Australia’s history, with some Western Australian farmers’ experiencing crop losses of up to 90 per cent. Meanwhile unusual spring weather means thousands of kilograms of split peaches look set to go in the bin.
And lastly up in Queensland banana growers on the Cassowary Coast are still counting the costs after wild hail storm left tens of thousands of banana bunches on the ground. Banana grower, Craig Buchanan (40), said he’d only seen hail three or four times in his life.
And it seems it’s not just the weather that’s gone extreme – our politicians are all racing to apply an orange fake tan of their own, the fines for a farmer selling raw milk is higher than for a dealer selling crack, abdominals come in eight packs now and apparently people are surveilling us through our webcams and phones as we read about all this stuff.
In this extreme climate it would be understandable for anyone to feel like stocking up on a lot of canned food, taking our nearest and dearest to a remote rural property and spending family time revisiting Bear Grylls’ episodes and digging deep holes with sharpened sticks at the bottom.
But as appealing as this life sounds (and hey who wasn’t charmed by Viggo Mortensen in Captain Fantastic?) there is a reluctant doomer consensus that no matter how many crossbows and mantraps we have, no matter how impregnable our compound seems, we become more vulnerable when we isolate ourselves. And you don’t have to be a game theory expert to work out that we never win going it alone – just check out the beneficial interactions between plants, bacteria and fungi that have evolved by sharing over hundreds of millions of years – if only they had a YouTube channel.