At a glance
Who: HS Fresh Food – Anthony Houston.
What: A farming and food manufacturing company supplying fresh salad products.
Can you tell us about your property?
Anthony is a director of HS Fresh Food, a Tasmanian based farming and food manufacturing company supplying fresh salad products to supermarkets throughout Australia. When I was a kid, my Dad had a dream to own a farm. He couldn’t afford land so he bought 50 chooks. We started with free range and barn, then later we moved to Cambridge and built a state of the art battery egg farm. For a while it was good, but soon people were telling us they didn’t want eggs from chooks in cages; they said it was cruel. We thought we were doing the right thing at the time but people didn’t like it. We knew we had to change, but we couldn’t see how. Then we got lucky, the state government built an irrigation scheme and the pipeline came through our farm. We now had water. We had an old friend, Dennis, who for years told us we should grow lettuce. It was never an option for us, because we had no access to water. So I rang Dennis and asked him if he could teach us how to grow lettuce. He came over the next day, we fenced off a little patch, planted it out, and watched them grow. From that little patch, we cut six boxes and took them into Woollies. The buyer said that he wasn’t interested but he took a look anyway and said “have you got any more?”. We said “we’ve got 5 more on the back of the Ute”. He said “if you give me lettuce like that I’ll take all you can grow”. So off we went planting, we nearly went broke but we didn’t care. That was 30 years ago.
What first got you thinking about climate change?
Three years ago I stepped back from the operations of the company, which by now was employing over 200 staff, nationally. I had time to reflect on what has happened to the planet in my generation, it got me worried. My life changed in November 2019 when I heard the students at the School Strike for Climate speak of the destruction we had brought upon their future. I had tears in my eyes as I watched this younger generation stepping up for nature and their lives.
I realised the gravity of the climate crisis, and the obligation that I had to these kids. Tasmania had to be part of the solution. I know I had to step up, but soon realised that I couldn’t do much on my own. I set out in search of a group I could join, where I thought I could make the most impact and I came across Farmers for Climate Action. I called the FCA office in Melbourne, spoke to Fiona and told her I was a farmer from Tassie worried about climate change. She said she’d welcome all the help she could get and asked if I would write an op-ed. We got into all three Tassie newspapers, then soon the ABC called saying they wanted to talk to a farmer about climate change. It was clear that I didn’t know much. I needed more knowledge if I was going to be any use to anyone, so I took up the offer from FCA to attend a four day training course in Victoria on Climate Change and Agriculture. That course was another life changer, the science was mentally challenging, but it all fell into place when we focused on solutions and opportunities.
Thirty years ago our family ran a battery egg farm and we fed whale meal to the chooks. Now looking back, I can see how wrong it was but we changed and never looked back. Now we’re facing a changing climate, but how do we not become despondent? The simple answer is we can’t afford to, there is no option but to fight. Turn despair into action, look for solutions and inspire others to do the same. I hope in some small way I can help farmers think about climate change and understand there are better ways of doing things that are good for farmers and better for the planet.