So Im sitting in a little caf in Lismore. Its very popular but today the potato salad is terrible. Despite being organic, the potatoes are undercooked. A waste of a farmers talent.
Hello S, says a voice from the footpath.
I look up and recognise John (not his real name) who lives in the hills nearby. He rarely comes to town.
John is wearing overalls, a Nimbin University t-shirt and hemp No Sweat runners.
John is a marijuana farmer. Or at least he was when I saw him at last years MardiGrass festival.
He won best marijuana in the bush-grown category. A win he is very proud of. Farmers take pride in their produce.
Hello John, how goes it?
Wouldnt mind a bit of sun, he says, sliding his thin, muscular frame into the chair beside me. He has scratches across his nose.
I thought you would like the rain, mate, I say.
Naw. Too much. Im getting mould.
On your neck?
No. On the plants.
He looks at the menu. I advise against the potato salad.
Any more rain and theyll get root rot, John says, obviously concerned. Farming is an uncertain profession. At least the rain has kept the helicopters away. He rolls a cigarette with two papers. And a filter.
Farmers have always done it tough. Unfortunately he has neither been eligible for drought or flood relief.
I mean they grew like crazy over Christmas with all the rain. Great not having to carry water. My back aint as strong as it used to be.
He stretches his back. Farming is hard work.
Then I couldnt get to them when the creek flooded. I was worried theyd sex and the crop would be ruined.
Eventually I had to swim across. That was tricky. But I got there just as the first males were showing. Lucky.
John is committed.
Once near harvest time, he slept for a week in the bush near his plots to protect them from theft. Thats dedication.
Unfortunately the thieves robbed his vacant house during that time. Stole his entire Bob Marley collection. All on vinyl too. He didnt go to the cops.
I order coffee for us both. John is not flush with money right now.
Reminds me of the 80s all this rain, he says. Ah, those were the days. Before hydroponic dope. Youd get a good price then, eh S?
I wouldnt know, John.
Bloody hydro growers. Its chemical crap. Those bastards should be put in jail, John says with feeling. John has strong moral convictions. Wrecks ya brain.
Hows the family? I ask as our coffees arrive.
Michelle (not her real name) has moved out.
Sorry to hear that, man, I say.
Relationship breakdown is more devastating than any flooded creek or undetected flowering male. Well, more than a flooded creek anyway.
Shes moved in with a guy with a job, John says, wrinkling his nose, his red eyes wetting.
He picks at my potato salad.
Not cooked, he says.