Labor market participation in regional Australia — the areas outside major cities — is well above the national average. And since rural populations tend to be older, that means many people continue to work well after they might have wanted to retire.
Mr. Smith, the pig farmer, rejected that pattern. He flew to Manila in 2008 to interview job applicants for his Kia-Ora piggery after placing a help wanted ad in a local newspaper.
Two of his four original hires still work at Kia-Ora. Mr. Smith, 66, a taciturn farmer who warms up to strangers at the pace of an autumn morning, has retired from managing the piggery.
To understand the town’s revival, he told me, I would have to visit.
‘They’ve Learned to Adapt’
One morning before 7 a.m., I found myself donning a paper jumpsuit and tall rubber boots for a day of pork production with Kia-Ora’s mostly Filipino work force.
We started in the breeding area, a series of long metal warehouses filled with tiny newborn piglets and pregnant sows big enough to knock a small car off the road.
Gail Smith, the mating supervisor, was guiding Raymond Mabulac, one of the Filipino workers, on the latest methods of artificial insemination.
“When you’re done, you need to hop in the pen and record them,” she said.
“Easy,” Mr. Mabulac said. “No worries.”