An Agrarian Society

I had crossed the world only to find, as I have so many times since, that I was preaching to the converted. As the last of the delegates left the auditorium, I let out a sigh. It had gone well, but what use is being a messenger, when the message is already received? I had been extolling the virtues of growing your own vegetables, as had been done in the wake of world war 2, where civilians were tasked with the civic duty of digging up their patch of lawn on their quarter acre blocks and planting turnips, potatoes, lettuce and parsley for the good of queen and country. In this town, a tiny outpost 150 km north west of Melbourne, the townsfolk were ahead of the game. No longer an agricultural hot spot as it had been until the 1990s, thousands of hectares had been carved up into blocks, separated by fences only inches from the brick veneer houses that stood proudly- perhaps arrogantly, marring what was once a picturesque landscape of rolling pastures and domesticated animals. Of course, that landscape had marred what was once virgin land, uninterrupted by the human condition. These townsfolk, house proud and penny-wise, knew that they were better-off foregoing the paved, sanitised back gardens for a patch of seasonal crops. It was the economic reality of the times. It was either that or reliance on the government issued sachets of daily nutrients, trademarked as Dents, the only way to survive for those who couldn’t afford the offerings from Woolicole, the giant conglomerate that owned all stakes in any fruit and vegetable grown outside of a domestic dwelling. The fortunate were able to get their hands on the genetically modified tomatoes that could feed a family of 5 for a week with just the one fruit, chicken fortified with enough vitamins and protein to fuel an athlete for a season of track events, and other such advances that rendered almost everything in the aisles of Woolicole unrecognizable to a tourist, time travelling from the not so distant past of 2014 when Woolworths and Coles Myer group merged and changed the landscape forevermore. There was no looking back by 2029 when the consumer choices were between lacklustre but nutrient-rich Dents or Woolicole purchases, further dividing the populace into haves and have nots, except that is for the mavericks who sacrificed paved driveways for a better way. In delivering my free lectures on creating a veggie patch to fight the system, I was in danger of persecution by Woolicole, who were currently fighting a case in the Supreme Court, claiming that their ownership of all seeds meant anyone growing crops outside of their strict licensing conditions, even in a domestic setting, was breaching their patent on farmed foods. They play dirty, but it seems in this town and every other on my speaking tour, 23 towns in all- the tide of change is coming and people are ready to embrace foods of yesteryear, regardless of the threats and bully tactics of the mighty Woolicole.

Select a book at random in the room.  Find a novel or short story, copy down the last sentence and use this line as the first line of your new story. Based on the last line in The Cloudspotter’s Guide, Gavin Pretor-Pinney

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