Fears for farming's future on Te Radar
Comedian Te Radar kept the jokes flying when he talked to farmers at Fieldays, but underneath was a serious message about sustainability.
"It terrifies me how much of our economy is stuck inside a dairy cow," said the comedian, whose real name is Andrew Lumsden.
His father is Orini dairy farmer Malcolm Lumsden, a Federated Farmers stalwart.
"I'm off a farm, I love it and it's my inheritance but all it will take is one little thing and boom we are poverty stricken."
Te Radar said he was a huge fan of biodiversity, but the loss of biodiversity within the rural sector, specifically the declining numbers of heritage-bred cattle, stud cattle and sheep farms, worried him.
"I go to A&P shows all across the country and I spend a lot of time with the cattle breeders. I ask them how it's going and they say 'Mate, numbers are down, everyone's converting to dairy'."
There was a real danger in that, he said.
Te Radar said he was always interested in where food came from.
He littered his talk with anecdotes off his television series Off the Radar, which focused on sustainable living and the lessons he has learned.
The first series of his show occurred in the backdrop of when the New Zealand pig industry was under the microscope for its practice of farming pigs in indoor sow crates.
"At the time pork was the cheapest meat on the market," he said.
About 700,000kg a week of imported pork entered New Zealand.
"How on earth do they compete? Their meat is the cheapest meat on the market and we are flooded by imports."
Those counties that export pork to New Zealand do not have to pass any of the restriction New Zealanders put on their pig farmers, he said.
"All they have to pass are food standards. How are they supposed to compete. The answer is they can't."
Recently, the Mad Butcher had to sell imported pork in his chain of stores because he could not find enough local supply, he said.
"To me that's a real danger sign that we could almost see the death of our pork industry."
It was a major reason he supported country of origin labelling.
It also aired at the same time there was a major spike in food prices around the globe. In Auckland, broccoli prices reached $8.99 a head.
The price outraged many shoppers, who had no idea of the difficulties involved in growing food.
"It was a really good example of the disconnect people have with growing food.
"There is no difference when you are going to the supermarket whether it's buying meat, vegetables, a can of beans or washing detergent. It's just a thing at the supermarket and you expect it to be there at a fair price all year round," Te Radar said.
People who wanted to live more sustainably needed to start small, he suggested.
"People bite off more than they can chew. Just do a little bit until you have mastered that bit and have got it under control."