SAC # 67

"Yeotopia" Revisited: Ruminations on how the vibrancy of an ideal hid the relatively early industrialisation of New Zealand Agriculture



TIME | 11 June 2009, 4pm onwards

LOCATION | Suite 12, Centre for Innovation, 87 St. David St.

SPEAKER | Dr. Tom Brooking


This talk re-examines an argument that I developed in 2005 concerning the survival of both the institution of the family farm and the yeoman farming ideal. Since then experience on the Government committee into walking access and access to other information has forced a rethink. It now seems to me that New Zealand actually ventured down the industrial path earlier than we once thought-around 1909-10 rather than the 1920s. This commitment made a century ago helps explain why the dramatic changes of the 1990s, especially in terms of intensity of stocking and patterns of ownership, unfolded so rapidly overthrowing any semblance of yeo-person type farming and altering the institution of the family farm almost beyond historical recognition, especially in the dairy industry. The paper will conclude by reinforcing the urgency of broadening discussion about future directions in New Zealand agriculture least the very narrow and reductionist vision of agricultural science which has driven our variant of industrial farming thus far causes a dramatic fall in the health of our stock animals and propels us into environmental and sociological catastrophe which will make rural communities dysfunctional and New Zealand farming unsustainable.

About the Speaker

Professor Tom Brooking specialises in New Zealand and comparative rural and environmental history and has published six books and numerous book chapters, essays and articles. His last major book was Lands for the People? The Highland Clearances and the Colonisation of New Zealand: A Biography of John McKenzie. He has since published two edited volumes: Environmental Histories of New Zealand, OUP, 2002 and The Heather and the Fern: Scottish Migration & New Zealand Settlement, University of Otago Press, 2003.

Currently Tom is working on Seeds of Empire: The Environmental Transformation of New Zealand, to be published by I.B.Tauris (London) in 2009; a Biography of Richard John Seddon, New Zealand's longest serving Prime Minister, tentatively titled 'The People's Servant' to be published by Penguin, Christmas 2009; and a Marsden funded project on Scottish migration to New Zealand which involved the supervision of 2 PhDs and should appear in 2011 in book form.

The paper advertised is to be given to the Agricultural History Society (USA) in Little Rock, Arkansas on the following week.


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