A lifetime of memories

Frances Coles reflects on how much life has changed since her Nana, who recently celebrated turning 97, was born in 1924.

Oh, the changes I have seen: Frances and Aaron Coles spend time with her 97 year old Nana.

As I write this column, my Nana celebrates her 97th birthday, and it got me thinking about how things have changed in the world throughout her lifetime.

Mankind’s world view was rapidly expanding in 1924, as astronomer Edwin Hubble formally announced the existence of other galactic systems at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society. Today, we are searching further and further into space with exploration of Mars currently underway.

An influential New York City concert ‘Experiment in Modern Music’ saw composer George Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ premiered in 1924. I wonder what Gershwin would have made of today’s artists such as Cardi B, Justin Bieber and Six60?

In 1924 the first ever winter Olympic Games were held in Chamonix, France – fast forward to today and the viability of the upcoming Olympic Games in Japan is in doubt due to the global Covid-19 pandemic.

In 1924 Mahatma Ghandi was released from jail – one of many sentences served during his ongoing campaign for India’s independence. Today’s influencers such as Greta Thunberg campaign against climate change rather than oppressive governments.

Dairy farming has also significantly changed over this time – from hand milking a couple of cows for the family to fully automated systems harvesting milk from hundreds of cows per milking in order to create products for customers on the other side of the world.

In 1924, the Dairy Board was only a year old – formed to control the export of all New Zealand dairy products and be responsible for marketing them to the world. Electric fences on farm, herringbone sheds and milk tankers were a long way off yet.

This reminds me that my Nana was my first family link to dairying – she and my Grandad used to drive a truck collecting the milk and cream cans from local farms around the Hororata/Darfield area in Mid-Canterbury. My granddad then went on to build a successful engineering business, so the values of hard work, community service, and an appreciation for the importance of the agricultural sector run deep in my veins.

Aaron and I were recently invited to speak at our youngest daughter’s primary school about the contribution dairy farming makes to the local economy and how it has changed over the years. When I think about how much it has evolved during our relatively short time in the industry, I can only begin to imagine what it may look like when I am as old as my Nana.

As the saying goes, the only constant is change, and changes are on the horizon within our own business. A long-serving employee finished up with us recently – looking toward his own new challenges – and we have part of our equity partnership farm being sold to facilitate the exit of one of the company’s three shareholders. While we’re sad to see the end of these chapters in our farming journey, we’re also excited about new possibilities ahead and open to new ways of doing things.

So when I think of my Nana on her birthday, I reflect on her ability to embrace change and technology (we often touch base through WhatsApp), her resilience when faced with challenges, and the pleasure she gets from seeing the plentiful opportunities laid out at her great-grandchildren’s feet.

As we head into a quieter time onfarm over the coming weeks, it would be nice if we could all take a moment to reflect on where we’ve come from over previous generations or seasons, and think big about just where we could head to in the years to come.