Is National Lamb Day the most important date in NZ agriculture history?
Sheep & Beef
Sheep & Beef

Is National Lamb Day the most important date in NZ agriculture history?

In this enlightening episode, Professor Hugh Campbell offers rich insights into New Zealand's history and the evolution of its sheep farming industry. 

Campbell brings a unique perspective to the defining moments of New Zealand's development. Discussing the nation's pivotal historical dates, Campbell cites the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi as a central pivot point. However, he sparks debate over the second most significant date, positing the enfranchisement of women in 1893 and the first shipment of frozen meat leaving New Zealand in 1882 as contenders.

Moreover, he delves into the profound impact of Britain joining the EU in 1973, stating, "It was devastating for us economically and you can argue in terms of what's happened to New Zealand farming, both the good and the bad. All of it stems from that moment." 

A particular focus of the conversation is the SS Dunedin and its monumental voyage in 1882. The successful shipment of frozen meat not only established New Zealand as a global player in the meat trade but also marked a turning point in the country's economic history. 

"There's almost no spoilage in the voyage... and unlike many of the earlier experiments in refrigerated shipping, the future sheep farming industry of New Zealand catches an enormously good break." 

The episode also explores the transformative shift in New Zealand's agricultural landscape post-World War II and the role of state infrastructure investment in bolstering the golden age of farming in the 1950s. 

Campbell notes the changes in farming practices and the consolidation of agricultural knowledge, which enabled a broader demographic to take up farming. 

"By the 1920s what you're starting to see is, with the increasing standardization of knowledge, more and more people can become farmers," he explains. 

Looking to the future, Professor Campbell discusses the ecological and economic challenges facing sheep farming, highlighting the need for sustainable practices and innovative strategies. He emphasises the cultural significance of lamb as a national dish and the importance of evolving the sheep industry to ensure its sustainability. 

Campbell leaves listeners with a reflection on New Zealand's agricultural journey, connecting the past's influence to the shaping of a progressive future for sheep farming.

Listen to the full chat between Hugh Campbell and Dominic George above.

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