What a challenge to be farming in Australia… with the current heartbreaking drought and then the recent Queensland flood crisis. It is with heartfelt empathy, understanding and support of strangers that farmers value the care within the community.
This week I have been speaking about farming, the challenges with extreme weather events and the kind generosity within the community. I had my first speech assignment at Tamworth ToastMasters on Monday night, and then on Wednesday at C.W.A Wanthella Group Council Meeting at Uralla. Two organisations and two speeches later… agriculture and the environment has been the topic and is still at the forefront of my mind. Now I shall share my thoughts with you too.
Agriculture is all around us and a part of everybody’s lives… from the food we eat, the clothes we wear and the water we wash with. The agricultural industry is an industry worth sustaining for the future food security of our beautiful and clean nation.
Drought is nothing new, but a normal challenge that farmers experience over certain years. But this is the worst drought in 100 years. Not only the severity of the dry spell, but the length of time that farmers have endured to date. The problem is that this drought is so widespread across our country, that farmers options have become far too limited, so their structured “Drought Management Plans” fail to deliver. Agistment is not an option in this drought, due to the widespread effect, so farmers are forced to sell their livestock or feed the remaining core breeders.
Sadly the ongoing drought is devastating for Australian farmers, as they struggle daily to keep up with the physical demands of feeding their remaining livestock and carting water. Farmers are working 7 days a week, are feeling exhausted and families are suffering. Farming has temporarily become a burden, rather than a passion.
The financial strain is consuming our farmers, with increasing farm loans to purchase feed (which has more than doubled in price), the cost of updating or maintaining water infrastructure, machinery maintenance, livestock husbandry costs… let alone the general living expenses and medical bills of their families. All with no income.
When farmers do not have the money to spend in town, the drought then impacts the local businesses. The devastating effects of drought, may first consume the farmer… but like a domino effect… everyone is suffering.
The mental anguish torments farmers… as they worry about keeping their stock, not only alive, but productive. Stressing about how they will pay that next feed bill without any income. Wondering how to keep strong for their families sake. Of course mental health is going to be a concern. Farmers are mostly resilient and somehow manage to cope… but there are organisations that are available to farmers when needed.
One of the main things keeping farmers sane… is seeing the kind support of the Australian community. The empathy and compassion shown to farmers, has been incredibly uplifting.
The Australian culture is to naturally help people in need. Our community spirit and generosity has emerged during this prolonged drought crisis… and it is this that gives farmers the strength and motivation to survive. We have seen community groups, businesses and individuals… rally for our farmers and support the future of the agricultural industry.
It is the emotional support through these action, that motivate farmers to stay focused despite their livelihood and future being so uncertain. The monetary donations have assisted farmers financially or the few bales of hay may feed some livestock for a few days. But the real value is multiplied… knowing that people care about farming… care about our future food security and care about the industry as a whole. It is just knowing that people do care and want to help. Farmers are sincerely thankful for this.
Everyone sees photos of hungry stock, parched farmland and stressed farmers in the media… but the farmer lives it every day, still putting on a brave face. Farming is a gamble that does rely heavily on the weather.
My heart goes out to the Queensland farmers with the recent flood crisis. Struggling with drought for many years… then the devastation of flooding. Nobody could have prepared for this. More than 500,000 cattle were killed as a result of the Queensland flood and another 150,000 struggling to survive. With the flood, the cold weather, the mud and no feed… many cattle faced their last moments filled with fear and panic. Farmers care about the welfare of their livestock… so this has been an incredibly emotional time for them.
Nobody expected the onset of the much-needed rain… to turn into a major disaster. As the water dried up… just imagine the catastrophe that unfolded. Farmers feeling helpless as their livestock are washed away due to weakness. Fences washed away completely or needing major repairs. Scattered livestock, bogged in mud and dying. Farmers having to put down some of their livestock to be humane. Dead animals everywhere. The emotional task of cleaning up is enormous and overwhelming.
Rain does not normally produce sadness, it is usually welcomed by farmers. But not in excess causing such devastation. Once again, Australians rally together to support our farming communities in dire need. Their compassion, assistance and kind support come unconditionally. Sometimes the farmer’s gratitude remains unspoken, due to embarrassment or strength of character. But farmers are truly thankful to the community for their true Aussie compassion and support.
Farmers do have an underlying passion for farming and a commitment to secure the future of the Australian agricultural industry. We are all connected through agriculture and we are all in this together. It is the community trust and support, that has become the real saviour.
Farmers are finding the strength and determination to continue to feed and clothe our nation into the future. One day their resilience will allow for the burden to lift and the passion to be restored.
Take care, Karen
“A kind gesture can reach a wound
that only compassion can heal.”
~ Steve Maraboli