For Elizabeth, telling a contemporary cane farm story means exploring the complex contradictions that make up agricultural life. One such contradiction is how farmers interact with nature and the environment in the course of their work.
“On the one hand,” Elizabeth says, “farmers exploit nature because they’re growing things for people to use. But on the other hand, they’re not in it for the short term. They’re mostly in it, family farmers in particular, for generations. So they want to look after the land and keep it fertile. They’re using this land to meet human needs, but they also want the farm to stay fertile for the long term.”
Advances to farm machines and technology also presents a contradiction in farming. “There’s a lot of machines and technology on farms today. The harvesters, the tractors, the GPS technologies, the irrigation equipment, you name it. And so I’m interested in how technologies are used, but also how these things influence and form the farmers.”
“Machinery, for example, is a two-edged sword. It raises people from having to do monotonous manual labor, so away from things like hand cutting cane. It can be seen as good from that perspective. But machines can have negative impacts too, for example, compaction of the soil or the use of fossil fuels.”
For Elizabeth, one of the most important things to achieve through her research is a deep exploration of these contradictions. “I can see the rewards and challenges, the good and bad, safety and risks on farms and I want to show that.”