30 Oct 2015

Rural Raconteur

From Country Life, 9:18 pm on 30 October 2015
South Otago farmer and poet Ross Agnew

Ross Agnew Photo: RNZ / Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

Ross Agnew's sheep farm sits on the rolling pastoral hills at Kaihiku, a rural settlement between Balclutha and Clinton in South Otago. It has been in the family for three generations.

He says “My grandfather bought a hundred acres here in 1912 and when my father came back from the war bought a neighbouring place as well as this one and he died in 1968 when I was quite you so we’ve run the place ever since pretty much.”

As well as being a farmer, Ross is also a musician and a poet.

He learnt to play the guitar when he was a teenager and is now a life member of the Clutha Country Music Club. His writing came to the fore in 1988 when he came second in poetry completion run by local newspaper.

“I stuck an entry in anonymously and wrote about rogernomics at the time and the effect it had on local communities and the paper rung me up  and said I have to appear in the newspaper if I wanted to collect the prize so that was when I came out of the closet I suppose!

He turned one of his poems into a song and it ended up being an international hit in 2003. Fart Tax Blues was played on radio and television stations in several countries and it struck a bale chord with local farmers because it was a protest song about the government's proposed fart tax.

“The government at the time was introducing a tax on the gas emissions livestock which I thought it was absurd at the time and it soon got labelled as the fart tax and I just thought it was a great topic to write about.”      

Since then Ross has been writing poems, most of which depict humorous vignettes from rural life and they been published in a book called Farmyard Blues, the first edition of which has sold out!

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