Farmers deserve the same recognition as doctors & lawyers, says Melissa

The first episode of Visible Farmer for 2020 features market gardener, Melissa Charlick, who says it is important that farmers are viewed in the same light as lawyers and doctors.

Growing up, Melissa said her generation was one that was taught about the danger of the extinction of animals, the pollution of seas and land, but was never taught to ask, ‘what can you do?’.

Struggling with this problem, Melissa tried to convert her mother’s lawn into a veggie garden and even had a worm farm at one point.

As she started learning and visiting farms, Melissa was able to see how she could invest her life in a positive way.

“The most common things we are told is either you guys are living the dream or you poor things must work so hard and I think that is the crux of what is wrong with the perception we have of farming,” Melissa said.

“We’re not living the dream. Dreams place ideas outside of reality and I don’t think that’s healthy,”

“I also don’t agree with the pity that you get, because I think every time that happens, these ideas of a farmer get reaffirmed. Change doesn’t happen from that. I think we need more young people farming and more schools talking about farming as a career path, it was never even mentioned when I was at school.”

Melissa now owns Roly Poly Farm, a 0.5 acre property located in Gidgegannup in Western Australia just 50 minutes outside of Perth. She and her partner Declan produce over 100 varieties of vegetables which they sell at local farmers markets.

The pair follow the method of regenerative farming which focusses on building up the soil biology as opposed which Melissa said has been instrumental to the farms success.

“You give back to the soil more than you take. I think that we’re at a stage in a lot of landscapes and ecologies where we need to be regenerating,” Melissa said.

“Sustainable isn’t quite enough because if I went into a depleted landscape and said I was going to sustain it, you’d be sustaining depletion whereas we focus on regeneration.

“It requires a lot more effort, but it is a lot more rewarding.”

Urban-fringe farmers like Melissa’s provide up to 40% of our cities’ fresh produce but are in a steady decline given the ongoing drought conditions and urban expansion.

“Market gardening is such a beautiful entrance point, because you don’t need a lot of land. You get a return very quickly, which is really important when you’re entering into a relatively low capital,” Melissa said.

“I think small scale-farms are extremely important. It’s a really awesome lifestyle to have, it’s a fantastic career to have and that it’s accessible and it can be done.

“I would love to see farming be viewed in equal to a career in medicine or law and we need young kids seeing farmers in their day to day, seeing that image and having that visibility so that they can identify and question whether that’s something they want to do.”

See Kathy’s full Visible Farmer episode here:

Tegan Scott

Is the Community & Engagement Officer at the National Farmers' Federation.

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