Reap­ing what he sows

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS -

SAM Blanco loves gar­den­ing. There’s noth­ing spir­i­tual about it. For Sam it is cer­tainly not the dirt- un­der­the- fin­ger­nails equiv­a­lent of yoga’s full- lo­tus po­si­tion. It is not like he is slip­ping away into another men­tal di­men­sion, skip­ping away with but­ter­flies or di­alling his in­ner Sam while out there in the vegie patch be­tween the farm house and the high­way. More likely he is think­ing about how he can im­prove fuel con­sump­tion in his fleet of farm ma­chin­ery. He finds this sort of idle med­i­ta­tion sooth­ing.

He en­joys the sim­plic­ity and won­der­ful sense of achieve­ment that comes with grow­ing food. He gets im­mense sat­is­fac­tion know­ing that be­tween him and his trusty hoe, they are beat­ing back Public En­emy Num­ber One: weeds. No mat­ter what he does they keep break­ing through the crust of the earth which nur­tures his rows of beans, beet­root and toma­toes. It is an on­go­ing war of at­tri­tion.

For ev­ery 10 hours he spends work­ing on his 60,000tonne cane farm he will spend at least two work­ing the ve­g­ies. That is Mon­day to Fri­day. On week­ends he might be work­ing in the vegie patch all day Satur­day, all day Sun­day. Time flies by on gos­samer wings while he hoes, wa­ters, fer­tilises and sprays the crop against that other im­pla­ca­ble foe: in­sects.

Born in 1946, Sam came out from Si­cily with his par­ents when he was two.

“We would have come out ear­lier, but there was the war. Dad came out in 1949 and cut cane here for 10 years be­fore buy­ing this farm in 1960,” he said. The farm grew in size, mainly as a re­sult of water­mel­ons and ve­g­ies.

“We used to grow a lot of mel­ons and ve­g­ies, but you could only grow them back then on new ground for two years be­fore the weeds ar­rived,” he said.

“We kept buy­ing new ground on which to grow the mel­ons. What hap­pened was they dereg­u­lated the cane in­dus­try, which meant you could grow more cane. We had this ex­tra land we’d bought for mel­ons and ve­g­ies and so we turned it over to cane.”

He is mar­ried to Jenni, who cul­ti­vates flow­ers. Sam en­joys look­ing at them, but says that per­son­ally, he won’t have any­thing to do with some­thing he can’t eat.

There are three daugh­ters, rel­a­tives and friends and five or six per­ma­nent farm work­ers. All are ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the vegie gar­den.

“I like to grow things for the fam­ily. I’m good at it. It’s de­stress­ing,” Sam said.

He bris­tles at my sug­ges­tion that gar­den­ing to him might be a spir­i­tual ac­tiv­ity. Does he see it as the or­ganic equiv­a­lent of yoga?

“No,” he says, shut­ting me down. It’s got noth­ing to do with spir­i­tu­al­ity or yoga.”

From lit­tle things big things grow. Like Sam’s pasta sauce. He fries tomato, onion and gar­lic and then pours tomato over it. ( The tomato has been frozen af­ter bub­bling away on sim­mer for four hours). While this is hap­pen­ing the pasta is cook­ing.

“You pour the sauce over the spaghetti. You can put basil on it, salt and pep­per and even some but­ter if you want. It is fast to make. That is why they call it the work­ing man’s meal. It can be made in half an hour for lunch. My fa­ther used to eat moun­tains of it,” he said.

Sam’s phi­los­o­phy on life? There are no big rid­dles out there for Sam. “You live till you die, so make sure you live a good life.”

He is hap­pi­est when with his fam­ily. Noth­ing much else mat­ters. He’ll keep gar­den­ing and farm­ing un­til he can’t get around any more. He’s nearly 70. The bones are good and the joints still spring- loaded.

Death and the great there­after? “I’m not wor­ried. When the time comes it comes.”

DE- STRESS­ING EX­ER­CISE: Sam Blanco gets great sat­is­fac­tion work­ing his pro­duc­tive vegie gar­den with his trusty hoe.

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