The Work of Harvesting

harvester from drone
Cane harvester in action on Simon Mattsson’s farm in Marian. Photo by Robert Bole.

It’s busy times for artists and farmers in Mackay.

With “the crush” now in full swing, harvesters are out in the fields, those cute little trains are chuffing around hauling carriages full of cane to the mills, and the mills are working 24/7 to process it all. Tis a mighty effort, and all over town you hear about “tonnes per hectare”. In the photo above, the “haulout” truck which is receiving the cut cane from the harvester carries about 15 tonnes in one load.

This week we got together with photographer Robert Bole to experiment with his drone while the harvest was on. Kim and I got to ride in the harvester, which was a real thrill. Up in the airconditioned cab, looking through a glass pane at the cane flailing around wildly as if trying to escape. The harvester is steered by a GPS.

This action is so different from how it must have been when cane was cut by hand in Queensland. One of the things we’re really keen to explore further are those complex histories of sugar cane farming and the labour conditions it required.

With this in mind, I was googling around to see if I could find any traditional sugar cane harvesting songs. Check out the video below of families working together to harvest and stack the cane in Mharashtra, India.

The folk song to accompany the work is really wonderful. I’d love to know what they are singing: