A boy and horse were walking through a dark forest when the boy said he couldn't see a way through. The forest was so thick and overgrown that it was hard to see more than a few feet ahead.
The boy was starting to feel scared and lost. The horse said, "Don't worry, boy. We'll find a way through. Just keep following me."
The horse led the boy deeper into the forest. The trees were so tall that they blocked out the sun, and the air was damp and cold. The boy could hear strange noises all around him, but he couldn't see anything.
After a while, the boy started to lose hope. He said, "Horse, I can't see a way through. I'm scared."
Many of us may be feeling like the little boy who walked with the horse in the title, The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy, and I'd say it's probably fair enough, too.
Labour shortage, interest rates, El Nino, open gates? Could be lyrics to a parody of Billy Joel's, 'We didn't start the fire', but in reality, these are only a small number of the issues keeping people in agriculture awake at night (and that's before mentioning the decline in livestock and commodity markets amidst the rise and rise of farm inputs, insurance and other rates).
I recently heard an analogy that made me smile and I couldn't help but appreciate how well it translates to us as producers of food and fibre.
Picture you're in an empty jam jar tipped on its side, pacing as though you're on a hamster wheel ... most of the time you can see through the glass and have an idea of where you're going, but then, the back of a sticker will prevent us from seeing the full picture outside and despair will set in as we start to hypothesise rolling off the edge of the bench.
The depiction is not dissimilar to the previous metaphor in the sense of it being bloody hard to imagine there's a way out when it feels like we're hopelessly trapped in less-than-ideal circumstances.
When the boy said he couldn't see through the forest, the horse asked the boy "can you see your next step?" "Yes" he said. "Just take that" replied the horse.
We have to trust that if we take a few more steps, we will be able to see clearly through the glass once more and also remember we aren't (or likely ever will be) in a jar rolling around a benchtop.
Friends and perspective are important. If someone was to walk past and pick up the jar and subsequently halt the hamster wheel, they would be able to clearly see the label detailing the contents of the jar, along with all the fine print including the ingredients, health impacts and best before date.
The label of the jar in this case may read 'agriculture' with sub-print, 'Made in Australia' and a disclaimer indicating 'contents contain cyclical markets and weather patterns' or 'spoilage may occur if subject to adverse policies, geopolitical tension and economic uncertainty'.
This fine print would be enough to scare most off - and it does, but if we reflect on why we choose to be involved in agriculture and the good times it affords us, I think we will soon find the courage, like the boy, to trust there will be good times ahead as there have been before, even if it means enduring a time of uncertainty and challenges to get to the other side.
- Hugh Dawson, agribusiness student