Rural Reflections #7

Something a little different today, as I travel for an appointment this weekend… I will be reflecting on a farming area in central-west NSW.  I have snapped this photo, as we travel through Coolah NSW today.  I am reminded of the Sir Ivan bushfire only 2 years ago in this area and the devastation that was thrust upon those many farmers and home-owners.  A destructive blaze that destroyed their homes, businesses and livelihoods… yet their strong will and resilience have somehow seen them through.

The Sir Ivan bushfire started at the small rural locality of Leadville and burned about 55,000 hectares (136,000 acres) of land near Dunedoo, Cassilis and Coolah in February 2017.  The blaze destroyed 35 homes, farm machinery and killed about 4,700 sheep and 500 cattle, which cost the region millions in damages.  Tragically many of their dogs were also lost in the inferno.

Due to the enormous scale of this disaster, the charitable support and working volunteers from BlazeAid and the NSW Rural Fire Service… were a great savior bringing assistance and hope.  I recall BlazeAid volunteers stepped in to help rebuild boundary fences and other farm structures that had been damaged or destroyed.  BlazeAid volunteers worked in the area for many months, helping individual farmers, families and the local community.  I remember the Country Women’s Association (CWA) members driving down from Tamworth to cook meals for the voluntary workers and farming community and to help lift their spirits.

Meanwhile, the Merriwa-Sir Ivan Bushfire Appeal were fund-raising to help the victims of the disastrous bushfire, by asking people to donate cattle or funds that could help purchase cattle.  Through wider community support, 515 head of cattle were sold and the appeal had raised $835,000.  This appeal was focused on rebuilding more internal fencing, sheds and water infrastructure, as a medium-term initiative.

Sadly these farmers haven’t had a chance at a full recovery, because they have gone straight from a catastrophic fire… into drought conditions.  These producers need decent rain to allow pastures to make a comeback and the natural vegetation of trees and shrubs to possibly recover.

Today, I share with you this photo as a symbol of the strength and resilience of farmers.  In a time when farmers were faced with a natural disaster… they found the strength to rebuild their lives and continue farming in the agricultural industry.  In a devastating time, when “giving up” seemed the best option… they didn’t.  Somehow they found that inner strength… to get up again and overcome the pain and loss incurred.

Rural Reflection #7…

07 Lucerne Flats to Arid Rocky Hills at Coolah NSW

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This photo shows a lucerne paddock in the foreground, struggling in drought somewhat, but recovered from the bushfire.  It seems this region has been fortunate in receiving some of the recent storm rain, which has helped, but plenty more rain will be needed to break the drought and retain moisture in the soil for future crops.

The gentle hills behind, provide livestock with shelter, which has not properly recovered, even after 2 years since the devastating bushfire.  The bony hills have had all the natural vegetation burned out and has not recovered at all.  I like this photo because it shows the extreme variation of farmland, terrain and soil structure in Australia, which depicts the Australian rural landscape quite well… from the productive lucerne flats and undulating hills, up to the arid rocky outcrop.  It also is a symbol of survival through adversity and optimism for the farming future.

I do find this natural diversity of land very interesting… with 51% of Australian land being used for agriculture and only 10% is arable or suitable for growing crops.  Land use has a major effect on our food production, natural environment and communities.  In Australia, food security is regarded very highly as high food safety standards are implemented.  Factors that affect land management include climate change adaption, population and urban expansion.

It is not uncommon for rural families to be forced to travel some distance to other regional cities to see medical specialists.  When we travel, we tend to choose a route for a rural deviation as a means to avoid traffic as well as take the opportunity to view other farming areas.

It is a farmers passion for the rural industry and in recognising the need to sustain the future food security of our country… that they find the inner strength to persist and endure the struggles.  The hope for their future is also supported by many Australian communities through reputable charities, whether it was in recovering from the devastating bushfire or this horrid drought.

Take care, Karen.

“In the end,

some of your greatest pains

become your greatest strengths.”

~ Drew Barrymore

 

 

Rural Reflections #5

Loyalty, trust, love and hope… is at the heart of why farmers bear the burden of drought year after year.  Loyalty to our passion in life, our love for the agricultural industry and our love for our family.  This is what motivates us to keep on going, implement our drought management plans and ensure our nation’s future food security.

We trust our agricultural industry to survive so we can continue to feed our great nation and the rest of the world.  We hold hope for a better season as we face hardship and worry every single day.  Farmers love what they do… they care for their livestock, they take pride in managing the land beneath them and they trust in what they are doing to help feed and clothe our nation.

Today I am sharing this photo with you, taken in November 2018, only 2 short months ago.  Our land has suffered the effects of drought, as we had a very dry start to 2018, with the driest first half of a year on record.  Our average annual rainfall is 673mm (26 inches), but in 2018 we only received about half of that… 369mm (14 inches), only 17mm more than the lowest annual rainfall on record.

In the month of November alone, we received 106mm (4 inches)… which had given us hope.  Hope for a break in the dry season and hope for some relief for the land, the livestock and for us.  Sadly it didn’t last for long, but nevertheless, there is light at the end of this tunnel… finally.

Rural Reflection #5…

05 Eager Hereford Breeders Follow With Excitement

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As in stock management, a new paddock awaits this mob of cows and this photo depicts their excitement as the movement takes place.  A failed forage crop (on the left), planted in February last year, raises its head with the much-anticipated moisture.  Following every big drought, now we have the threat of weeds, invading paddocks that were once pasture.  But through on-farm management, weeds can be controlled, once some rainfall is received.  And those clouds above us hold hope that rain may be coming.

As we drive in front of the cattle, calling them to a new paddock… the hot, dry and dusty conditions were not restraining them at all.  I love this photo because it shows the natural quiet nature of Hereford cattle, the ease of stock movement and the trust that these beautiful breeders have in us.  They trust us to provide them with feed to meet their nutritional requirements.  They trust us to provide them with healthy clean water to drink.  They trust us entirely, as they follow eagerly without apprehension, as they contemplate what paddock may await them next.

So even with the over-bearing drought effects and the long-term process to farm business recovery… our loyalty to these animals and our industry drives us every day.  It is with the love of farming, that we do hold hope for a better season to fall upon us soon.

Take care, Karen.

“Loyalty is what makes us trust,

Trust is what makes us stay,

Staying is what makes us love,

and love is what gives us hope.”

~ Glenn van Dekken  

What is WAGS?…Women In Agriculture Gaining More Skills

A relaxed and informative “Summer Session” earlier this week at North West WAGS.  Women In Agriculture … an initiative provided by the North West Local Land Services (LLS).  The WAGS program facilitates technical upskilling in the agricultural industry and agribusiness management.  It provides a welcoming space that women can ask the “silly questions” without feeling awkward or embarrassed.

All women are invited to the free bi-monthly workshops, events and agricultural based days throughout the year.  WAGS have a range of women from inexperienced to the more experienced in agriculture.  A variety of topics are chosen, with direction from the women in the group.  The workshops offer an opportunity to share and gain skills and knowledge around topics such as ruminant nutrition, plantings and drought resilience.

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Our last event was about “Surviving the Summer and an end of year get together” so was very relaxed yet very informative.  Useful topics that were covered included:

  • Being Fire Safe
  • Being Farm Safe
  • Summer Management of Livestock
  • Summer Sowing Options

We learned where the “safest place” is during a fire on your property and how to handle the incident.  The most important thing is to have that family discussion, so everyone is aware of the plan.  We were given a guide for making our own Bush Fire Survival Plan.  I feel more confident now, on what to do if faced with a fire on my farm or near my home.  For more information see these links:

  • Bush Fire Survival Plan – to get your free plan for your family.
  • Fires Near Me NSW – an iPhone “app” providing information on bush fire incidents in NSW.  There is also a “Fires Near Me Australia” app.

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NSW Rural Fire Service also requests that you monitor the websites of your local fire and emergency service for bush fire information.

A WorkCover presentation provided us with information relating to on-farm quad bike safety.  Interesting and informative.  Current rebates were discussed for improving safety on the farm.  For more information, see these links.

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Information was provided regarding sowing options, forage sorghum varieties and changes to herbicide 2,4-D noting to check the safety data sheets.  In the current drought hay has been purchased from interstate, so there will be new weeds introduced to our properties.  We are advised to bring in the weed to LLS to be identified or take some photos.

An abundance of information was presented regarding livestock management in drought, feed nutrition and water quality.  We also heard about the trials on tropical pastures.

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There was a representative from RAMHP – Rural Adversity Mental Health Program – a program to inform, educate and connect people with appropriate services.  This is an important initiative in times of drought.  Information was provided on mental health and managing stress during drought.  For more information, see link RAMHP.

Not only were we provided with so much knowledge and information sheets, the Loomberah Hall Ladies provided a delicious morning tea and lunch.  As I was leaving one of the ladies gave me a beautiful envelope donated by a city person to a farmer in drought.

When I opened it, there was a little personalised note with $25 requesting it be spent on something nice like flowers, hairdo or chocolates.  I have not had my haircut for ages, so that is what I will do.  How kind and thoughtful of this lovely lady… it really made my day.  Small gestures go such a long way.  Thank you so very much.

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This drought has reminded me that there are really kind and caring people in the community at large.  Farmers are even finding strangers connecting with them, making way to new friendships.  We are surrounded by a lot of generous and thoughtful community members.  Thank you all for supporting our farmers.

Topics that have been covered on other WAGS days in the Tamworth area, have included:

  • Using and Training Working Dogs – with Tony Overton, a well-regarded dog handler and stockman from Walcha.
  • Using the LPA and NLIS websites – with practical use on laptops.
  • Feed Testing Results – important in drought times.

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Just one day away from the farm, can lift the spirit and you get to enjoy the company of other women and share stories.  It is an enjoyable way to learn and grow your skills, especially with the challenges faced with the drought.

The WAGS program is facilitated by Naomi Hobson, Kate Pearce and Sally Balmain from the North West LLS Ag Extension team and has engaged with over 100 ladies across the four WAGs groups based around:

  • Tamworth
  • Narrabri
  • Walgett
  • North Star

For more information about the WAGS program:

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Similar programs are “Ladies in Livestock” facilitated by the Northern Tablelands Local Land Services.  Groups are based at:

  • Guyra
  • Inverell
  • Tenterfield
  • Walcha

For more information about Ladies in Livestock, contact Georgie Oakes at Northern Tablelands LLS on 0429 310 264, as well as the Ladies in Livestock Facebook page.

Take care, Karen.

“When women support each other,

incredible things happen.”

~ International Women’s Day 2018

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National Agriculture Day Nurtured But Revelations Exposed

Have you eaten today?  Are you wearing something comfortable?  Did you put on some perfume or cosmetics this morning?  Thank you to our farmers, they are working hard every day… so we can eat and don’t need to run around naked.  (Scary thought huh!)  Today we celebrate.

It is my purpose to help you understand the direct relationship between food and agriculture, and the importance of food and fibre in our culture.  What you will find surprising in my blog is the revelation that, the extra products manufactured from raw agricultural products… and we use these items every single day.  What are they?

Today is the day to formally acknowledge Agriculture and the significant contribution that Australian farming and the agricultural related industries are making to ensure our nation is food secure and satisfying our community needs.  Nutritious Australian grown food and produce assures us of high eating quality, safe and affordable foods.  Food safety standards are in place to regularly monitor farming businesses to ensure our food supply continues to be safe and suitable for eating.

Farmers are feeding a hungry world, caring for the environment and creating important jobs in rural communities.  Through technological advancements and innovation, farmers are becoming more sustainable in quality and quantity and able to feed more people.  Not only are we provided with quality and healthy food products, we are also able to wear clothing made by our Australian-produced superior fibres like wool and cotton.

Wool is the textile fibre produced most commonly from sheep and Australia is one of the largest wool producers, producing about 25% of the global wool clip.  Merino sheep produce the finest wool.  Wool is a natural fibre with unique breathable but insulating qualities.  Wool is used in a vast array of clothing, from underwear to luxury suits.  Wool is also produced from other animals such as cashmere and mohair from goats, and angora from rabbits.  Some wool is also used to manufacture carpets, bedding and quilts.

Cotton is both a food and fibre product and almost all parts of the cotton plant are used in some way.  We use less land to produce more cotton than any other nation and the most water-efficient cotton producer globally.  Cotton is a soft, absorbent, non-allergenic and a breathable natural fibre.  About 60% of the world’s cotton harvest is used to make clothing.  The rest is used in home furnishings and industrial products such as tents, fishnets, book-binding, paper for bank notes, bandages, cotton buds and x-rays.

Cottonseed is mainly used to make cottonseed oil, margarine and salad dressings.  But it also is used in the manufacture of soap, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, rubber, paint and candles.  Cottonseed is also used to make stock feed which has been used excessively in the current drought, making it more difficult to meet the demand.

The Cattle industry is the largest farming sector in Australian agriculture, accounting for approximately 55% of all farms.  Although Australia is a smaller producer of beef, we are the second largest exporter of beef in the world.  We produce both grass and grain-fed beef.  Beef quality is determined by the size of the beef cuts produced from an animal and the marbling of the beef.  Australian beef cattle farmers produce 2.1 million tonnes of beef and veal each year, which is safe and of high-quality due to our industry standards.

Not only do we get to enjoy mouth-watering steaks and a variety of delicious beef products, many other products are also made from the cattle industry.  This is why the beef industry is so important (even if you do not eat much beef) as the manufacturing of other products makes it a very versatile industry.  Examples of other products include medicines, dyes, inks, adhesives, plastics, pet food, plant food, photo film, wallpaper, plywood, air filters, brushes, felt, insulation, plaster, textiles, fertiliser, charcoal, tennis racquet strings, hormones, vitamins, cosmetics, chewing gum, detergents, deodorant, shaving cream, perfume, lotions, paints, lubricants, biodiesel, cement, chalk, fireworks, matches and shampoo.  So yes, everyone is using some of these products every single day, thank you to the beef cattle industry.

Farmers are producing many agricultural commodities each and every day… wheat, grains, dairy, wine, sugar, horticulture products, fruit, vegetables, fish, pork, chicken, sheep and lamb, the list seems endless.  In Australia, 385,000 hectares are dedicated to farming land to produce our primary agricultural products.  Agriculture does make our world a better place.

So next time you are warm in your woolen jacket or wearing your comfortable cotton panties… give the farmer a second thought!

Next time you bite into your hamburger… please acknowledge the many hours that farmers gave, to provide you with a flavoursome experience of a nourishing beef patty, sizzling onions, crisp lettuce, tasty tomato, all held together on a bun enticed by our wheat farmers.

Every time you chew and taste a tender steak with a glass of wine… recognise how lucky we are to enjoy delicious, nutritious and top-quality food in our country.

Tonight when you shower… remind yourself that our agricultural industry helped me to wash my hair, lather myself with soap and apply our anti-aging moisturiser.

And on New Year’s Eve or at the Show… enjoy those fireworks, with a sense of appreciation to our farmers.

Today, we celebrate how agriculture makes our nation a better place.

For more information about National Agriculture Day see https://www.agday.org.au/

Take care, Karen.

“Farmers don’t just work til the sun goes down,

They work til the job gets done.”

~ Author Unknown

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Thank a Farmer Today!

Today I want to acknowledge and thank all Australian farmers.  Thank you for the food you put on our tables.  Thank you for the clothes on our back.  Thank you to all those farmers who make this possible.

Farmers are feeding our families everyday, and now forced to take a second job off-farm to feed their own family.  Thank you to those endless hours that are worked and those brief moments they get to spend time with their children.

Agriculture is our nations largest employer, with 1.6 million jobs provided in the agricultural supply chain.  Australian farmers are producing enough food to feed 60 million people.  We are the 6th most food secure nation in the world, producing 93% of our daily domestic food supply.  This is an enormous feat too which makes me proud.

Thank you has been ever so evident this year… with the widespread onset of drought, everyday Australians in both city and country, caring about farmers and the future of the agricultural industry.  We have seen so many people donate so much of their hard-earned money.  We have seen grocery food items and toiletry items donated to support farmers and the wellbeing of their entire families.  We have telephone support from charities ensuring the mental heath of our farmers are protected and supported.  The compassion that has been shown is overwhelming emotionally and the connections with new people so pertinent.

Farming is a family business so it does take a sacrifice from all.  Thank you to those farming families that work the land, care for the animals and create jobs that feed and clothe us everyday.  A farmers job is never done and will always be needed.  So to all the farmers who work in acres, not in hours… we thank you!

Take care, Karen

“The farmer has to be an optimist or he wouldn’t still be a farmer.”

~ Will Rodgers

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