Farming neighbours cultivate harmony across shared boundaries

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They don’t interrupt and they allow you to do it,” he said.”As long as we’re just in our work and fair with our neighbours and the responsibilities we owe to them, then everything is fine.”Neither man could identify any barrier between them, other than the physical barbed wire fence separating their properties.”Neighbours, in a lot of cases, are even closer than relations because you’re seeing them more regularly and interacting with them more regularly,” Mr Murat said.”And when you know that your neighbour is not doing well or is in need, you should help him with that need.”Mr Howe said having a good relationship with your neighbours was even more important when it came to farming.”It’s really important to get along with your neighbours, otherwise they can make life hard for you,” he said.”If you’re in town somewhere you can always sell your house and move somewhere else, whereas on a farm it’s not that easy to just sell up and move away from your neighbour.”

Photo:
Benjamin Murat, Peter Howe and Skender Murat walk off their morning tea in Benjamin’s gardens before getting back to work on their respective farms. (ABC Far North: Mark Rigby)
Love thy neighbour, no matter the differencesMr Murat said his faith had no impact on his relationships with any of his neighbours, and especially not the Howes.”I find that when people know that you’re a practising Muslim, they respect what you’re doing. (ABC Far North: Mark Rigby)
‘Differences aren’t that deep’Understanding between the two neighbours has helped both families prosper in their respective farming endeavours.”We’re upwind of them [the Murats], which means they get all our chemical drift, dust and water and they’ve never whinged or complained,” Mr Howe said.”They’re just easy to get along with.”For Mr Murat, the explanation for such a long-standing amicable relationship is simple.”The differences aren’t all that deep, really,” he said.”Apart from nationality, apart from some religious aspects of our lives, there’s so much commonality between the two of us.”As human beings we all have the same interests at heart … and these slight differences we might have are inconsequential when it comes to living together, particularly as neighbours.”

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Serbian Orthodox priest finds cultural harmony in Australia Despite differences in the crops they farm, their religions and even their appearances, the Howe and Murat families have a lot in common.The Murat family are devout Muslims and the Howes identify as Christians, but the way in which their families came to be in Australia are almost identical.Benjamin Murat’s father left Albania in the late 1920s, while Peter Howe’s grandfather left Italy around the same time.Both men’s relatives laboured on farms in various locations around Australia before saving enough money to purchase their own properties on the Atherton Tablelands, west of Cairns.And, while the two very different farming families have shared a fence line for only a few years, they have known each other for decades.Mr Howe describes one of his first interactions with Mr Murat’s faith as “a funny story”.”We were doing some contract work with the Murats, picking up rocks,” he said.”It was about lunchtime, around 12 o’clock, and we had an issue with the rock-picker, so another fella and I came into the shed looking for Ben.”We walked into the shed being pretty rowdy and here was Ben, kneeling down, praying to Mecca — we sort of shit ourselves, we didn’t know what we were supposed to do.”We snuck out of the shed and pretended we weren’t there.”

Photo:
The shared boundary between the Howe family’s avocado farm and the Murat family’s cane farm is often a place of conversation between the families.

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ABC Far North

By

Mark Rigby

Posted

March 21, 2017 12:24:34

Photo:
Benjamin Murat, Peter Howe and Skender Murat enjoy mid-morning smoko together. (ABC Far North: Mark Rigby)
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