Back in 1969 a Hollywood movie debuted, titled “If it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium”. I can remember seeing it in the theatre as a kid. Why do I mention that?
Well, the movie was about a bunch of tourists taking a hectic bus trip across Europe. All of them were from different countries and unfamiliar with each other at the start, a bunch of strangers lumped together sharing a unique adventure. Last week I arrived in Munich Germany and joined a tour organized for members of the ag media. Since then, our little group of reporters from around the world have been keeping to a hectic schedule as we slowly navigated our way northward through the country, stopping at a variety of farms and machinery-related locations.
Spending hours in a bus and checking in and out of hotels with military precision, all shepherded by a pair of friendly tour guides, has been the norm now for several days. And it’s just now coming to an end. Our northward trek was meant to end up in Hanover Germany on the opening day of Agritechnica, the world’s largest machinery expo.
After keeping track of us for the first few days of the event, our guides will be leaving those of us who are staying on to cover the show to our own devices. The others will be delivered to the airport to catch flights home to Brazil, Uruguay, South Africa, Japan and a bunch of other countries—assuming Lufthansa flights resume operating out of the Hanover airport at the end of the rotating strike they’re now on.
Our journalist group was made up of representatives from all those places, so idle conversation among us was, at times, a little difficult. A squad of interpretors helped keep us all informed, but not everyone’s English was good and my Portuguese is even worse. So you can see how that could put a crimp in cross-nationality chatter on the bus.
But I did manage to take advantage of my exposure to people from those places in at least a limited way. I had a few conversations (some more difficult than others), and I learned about about how agriculture happens in the unfamiliar places they come from. I was even reacquainted with a few friends from far-off locales, whom I’d met a few years ago at earlier Agritechnicas.
I’ve seen a lot of sights and interviewed a lot of knowledgeable people over the last week, and I’ve gleaned enough new information to fill several pages of future Grainews issues with interesting articles. But one thing has repeatedly occurred to me. Those of us who are privileged enough to farm or just live in Canada need to consider ourselves blessed, even with our crazy cold winters.
The agricultural sectors in some countries, particularly those in the less-developed world, barely exist. Those who want to farm such places face some pretty significant challenges. For example, we may complain about railway backlogs, but at least we have a railway that moves grain. Not everyone who needs that kind of infrastructure has it.
Most of us leave our truck unlocked—and sometimes even running—while we go into the post office in town to pick up our mail, and we expect to find it where we left it when we return. In many countries, however, the risk of property theft and even threats to life are astonishingly high for farmers.
One South African in the group recounted his “last” home invasion, when he was surrounded by gunmen who tied him up and looted the place. A writer and farmer from Brazil said he’d been shot at or actually shot from long range eight times while working in his fields, probably by those who are eager to move onto a newly unoccupied property, he thinks.
Would many of us be willing to take up the challenge of farming under those circumstances? I wonder?
So my last week has been a bit like that old ’60s movie—albeit without the Suzanne Pleshette love interest to keep me further occupied.
Stay tuned for some updates from the show later in the week.