'[Life on the land] is not the world of chintzes and the -country style' of magazines. Nor is it for the blinkingly naive falling in love with hunky blokes and blazing sunsets. Once upon a time I thought it was all about the lifestyle. I learned along the way that you can't eat lifestyle. Once upon a time I was a city girl. Now I have a tractor to start and hay to stack..." – Angela Goode
From a childhood spent yabbying and riding horses on friends' farms, Angela Goode has always wanted to live on a farm of her own. But when her friends set her up with cattleman Charlie, Angela soon discovers her romanticised ideas of country life are not always a reality.
Moving from one large cattle stud to another, Angela and husband Charlie eventually team up with city partners. Here Angela finds herself caught in the divide between city and country values, her past and her present. Land and animals are pushed hard, as farmers battle the drought under escalating interest rates. A crash in livestock prices sends investors running and land prices plummeting.
Thankfully, Angela and Charlie's dream of becoming start-from-scratch farmers is finally realised when they find the run-down -Field of Mars', a former sheep and onion farm, and home to endangered wildlife and rare trees. Angela and Charlie slowly integrate farming with rare wildlife, combining business with conservation, and make a life raising cattle and growing lucerne seed.
Angela explains, 'I have travelled far. That girl who thought she knew about farms and the patterns of the land saw then only what she understood. The journey is of slow assimilations, and multiple awakenings. The yearning to have dirt, and the freedom to shape it, determines who is a farmer. The feminisation of farming brings a softness of touch. As women in cities want more information about how the food they give their children is grown, so, too, do the women of the land work with soil as the foundation of all plants' health and those who feed on them."
Through The Farm Gate takes us through the pain, the joys, the fears, the dedication and the complexities of what it takes to live on the land. Written with humour and honesty, Angela's enduring love affair with the farm shines through every page in this beautifully heart-warming memoir of dreams and determination.
Angela Goode works on a farm near Naracoorte, South Australia, where cattle graze and bush stone curlews call. She has spent her writing life bringing the images and issues of rural Australia to a wider audience in books, newspaper columns, and radio. From 1981 to 2008 she wrote a popular country column for the Advertiser in Adelaide. The many editions of Great Working Dog Stories and Great Working Horse Stories, alongside For Love of the Land, celebrate working lives beyond the cities. In 2008 she was inducted by Rural Media South Australia as a Rural Media Icon. Angela has spent many years in the saddle – mustering buffalo, trail riding on bullock tracks, hunting, jumping logs and sometimes falling off.
Through The Farm Gate
Allen and Unwin
Author: Angela Goode
Question: What inspired you to write your memoir Through The Farm Gate?
Angela Goode: I had written a newspaper column for twenty or so of the years between 1981 and 2008. There were more than a thousand of them, dealing with rural issues, the ever-increasing gap between city and country and changes to agricultural life because of political, social and economic circumstances. I wanted to tie up the loose ends and try to present a coherent story of the past 32 years. If I could have avoided writing a memoir, I would have. There seemed no better way, however, of looking at the relationship between urban and rural Australia than through the trajectory of my own transition from being a city girl to hands-on farmer.
Question: Why was it so important to be honest when writing Through The Farm Gate?
Angela Goode: Readers can usually detect when an author is fudging. As much as I would like to have avoided discussing financial and emotional matters, the story might not have been as credible if I had left them out. I instead of moving along with the action, readers may well have been distracted by questions of -why' and -how'. So at the urging of a mentor, novelist Kathryn Heyman, I exposed more of my feelings and fears than I normally would. To my surprise, I found this liberating.
Question: What do you hope readers take away from Through The Farm Gate?
Angela Goode: Urban readers will get an insight into the risks and joys of farming. Rural readers will be able to recognise themselves as participants in an industry, reliant as it is on the weather, about which they have little control!
Readers in general will learn about the role of farm women in social change. They will also meet a woman who thought she knew about farms but discovered what an outsider she really was and what it takes to be accepted as a true Farmer. Readers, I hope, may also appreciate that the gap between rural and urban sectors causes misunderstandings and problems for those living close to the land. I would like to think that readers will feel they know a little more about the reality of farm life, too many images of which are fuelled by programs such as Farmer Wants a Wife and McLeod's Daughters.
Question: Can you share with us what a typical day is like, for you?
Angela Goode: Because I am a hands-on farmer, many days' activities are unpredictable. I always plan to spend half a day writing, and half a day on farm work. Rarely do things work out so tidily!
I may intend to move a mob of cattle from one paddock to another, a simple job, but then find that a water-trough is leaking and needs fixing. I may have to feed out bales of hay during autumn when paddock feed is scarce, but then find that a cow is having difficulties calving and needs help in the yards.
Some days, I will sit down at my writing desk and forget that dogs need exercise, the vegetable garden needs weeding and watering, and that the electric fences need checking.
I also may go to field days or seminars about growing seed crops, improving the soil, or controlling foxes. I could equally be giving a talk about writing.
Question: What's the one thing from your city life that you'd like the country to have?
Angela Goode: I would love there to be cinemas, theatres, orchestras and high calibre art galleries!
Interview by Brooke Hunter