by NICK ROSEN on SEPTEMBER 12, 2011 - 4 Comments in self-sufficiency
ALL OVER THE WESTERN WORLD hard working families forced out of business by the banking crisis and the subsequent Great Recession are finding themselves without welfare entitlement, having to live by their wits off the grid.
One of the most successful farming families in New Zealand, worth a quarter of a billion just three years ago, is the latest example to come our way.
The Crafar family, which once ran the largest family farming empire in the country, is now hunting possums and scrounging for fallen fruit to survive.
Head of the family Allan Crafar (pictured center with sons) says he and his wife Beth are “living off the land” after having trouble getting welfare benefits since the collapse of his 16 farms under $240 million of debt in 2009.
Mr Crafar said he and his wife had also grown vegetables and were given food. “Anything that is going to waste and being fed to cows in the district gets given to us.
“I’m right off the grid, basically. It’s hard to believe it can happen in New Zealand society but it has happened to us.
“We try to grow a bit of stuff if we can. We’ve eaten a few old rams. They taste all right if you cook them slow.
“If you sneak up on them on a good day, you’ll get him tender. If you shoot him in the back of the head when he’s not looking, he doesn’t know he’s a ram any more.
“I’m running out of rams – look out who else I might want to eat.”
Mr Crafar has now been moved off his land as receiver KordaMentha waits on a decision by the NZ Overseas Investment Office on a bid by a Chinese company for the farms. KordaMentha has also spoken to merchant banker Sir Michael Fay about a New Zealand-based bid of $105 million for nine of the farms.
Mr Crafar said possums and rabbits had also gone in the cookpot, along with “charity” from those in the area.
“We’ve always been pretty tight with money, so it’s not new.”
He said possums were potential money earners as well as food. “The fur is worth a bit.”
“I certainly haven’t had any bloody social welfare. Three trips to town – it costs $100 to go to town and back – and we got nowhere.”
Mr Crafar said the couple were considering leaving the South Waikato area but did not know what else to do.
“It’s a terrible situation for one of the most productive families in New Zealand. But that’s the way productive people in New Zealand are treated nowadays – like lepers. You do the most unexpected thing at the most unexpected time and that seems to work.”
He said the fees charged by the receiver – about $5 million in two years – were higher than he believed they should be. “They’ll be eating lamb,” he said.
His brother Frank Crafar said the family had become “refugees in our own country”.
He said he had turned to foodbanks, help from the Lions Club and church groups.
Food was supplemented by pigs, possums and rabbits, with apples, quinces and walnuts.