AUTHOR Rachael Treasure asked her Wodonga audience how many were farmers (some), how many read books (more) and then how many eat food (all).
“Aha, there we have it,” she said in response.
“And that’s the starting point to my talk because right throughout my career, food and agriculture has been the reason why I tell stories.”
A booked-out luncheon at Wodonga Library on Wednesday heard from the Australian creator of Jillaroo and five other novels, as well as short stories and works of non-fiction.
Treasure also visited Bright and Wangaratta on her North East tour, part of the High Road To Reading project that brings authors to regional Victorian public libraries.
“It’s a real celebration of books and Aussie authors and regional areas, which is what I’m all about,” she said.
“Full houses at every event, to the extent that they’ve had to bring in more chairs – it just shows you that the book is alive and well and libraries really are a hub for rural community.”
Describing herself as “an agriculturist first and foremost”, Treasure’s career includes being a jillaroo, rural journalist, radio broadcaster, professional wool classer, part-time vet nurse, family farm manager, drover and stock camp cook.
Now working on her seventh novel, the author’s latest book Down the Dirt Roads is both a memoir and a “manifesto for change” in the industry she loves.
She laments agriculture becoming too corporate, full of big machines and not investing in the “natural capital” of the environment.
“As a mum who invests feminine energy into farming, it’s a hard road to go down in teaching children because you physically can’t have children in these systems … large machinery, it’s dangerous, there’s a lot of toxic chemicals,” she said.
“So Down the Dirt Roads is, I guess, that call to, well, just to everyone to really be mindful about where they buy their food and how their food is grown. And if we can support farming families, like the small-scale farmer, that localised way of farming is the way of the future for our very survival.”
Not that all her themes are so serious.
“Usually my take-home message is to absolutely have fun in life and to be grateful because that’s the starting point for every day for every person and that makes life good,” Treasure said.
And she’s always pleased to hear from fans.
“Jillaroo's kickstarted a lot of young people, boys and girls, into reading, which was my intention from the outset as a writer,” she said. “I’m a bit of a closet academic, but I wanted to write for the masses and reach those people who don’t normally read.”