Rural Reflections #4

Hope and memories exist somewhere within us all.  This widespread drought has left farmers and rural communities battling every day… which is a reminder that we all need time to just stop and reflect.

Memories seem to find warmth from within us.  Those memories of a time when a season was able to produce food and fibre, with only the usual effort on the farm.  Farm production without the mental tribulations, physical exhaustion and financial debilitation.  Time to enjoy life… time to spend with our families… time to feel content.  A time we all yearn for once again.

This weekend I did stop, relax and reflect a little… a feeling and action that seemed so long lost.  A reminder that time with our loved ones is essential for all… and time to take care of yourself.  I needed to find this place… a moment where I could bring back hope.  This hope… or feeling of desire… for our season to break, for the heavens to open and rain soak into our paddocks and fill our tanks and dams.  For this rain to wash away our stress, our weariness and our pessimism.  One day it will happen… we are one day closer to rain every day.

So today I would like to share this photo with you, to show that hope is only around the corner.  This photo was taken in July 2017, at the end of a good Winter season, as sheep fatten for sale on the green grass.  It also depicts a storm to the east over Tamworth NSW.

Rural Reflection #4…

04 A Distant Storm Overlooking the Sheep

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I showed this photo to my husband, and at first, he didn’t even recognise it to be our property.  Sadly, the scenery now is paradoxical to back then.  Now every day is a vision of thick dust and short dry vegetation sparsely consuming the paddocks… and more so have consumed our lives.

I really like this photo because of how it depicts the storm in the background yet the sun shining brightly on the sheep feeding on the green grass.  It symbolises the intensity of how farming relies on storms and rain to continue our production effectively.  It also illustrates diversity within rural areas, and only 20km away the weather can differ so dramatically.

We may not be able to control the weather and a farmer knows best as they gamble every day upon the odds.  But we can have some form of control regarding how we respond to the drought, how we prepare for the drought and how we protect our families mental state in the meantime.  In any industry and family situation it is important to retain our optimistic state of mind and take care of each other.

It is now more than ever, we need to focus on our memories of the good seasons on the farm.  A time that will return to us once again.  Hold on to hope, enjoy time with your family as you anticipate a better season soon and remember we will get through this… together.

Take care, Karen.

“The greater your storm,

the brighter your rainbow.”

~ Author Unknown

A Broken Exhausted Life Exposed by Farmer in Drought

I am feeling tired, exhausted beyond the every day responsibilities in life.  Like you, at certain points in life, it just becomes far too exhausting.  Farm life, our responsibilities, household chores, financial stress, feeding stock and coping with the current drought… it is breaking me.  When do you say enough is enough?  How do you make that decision that it has been too tough for too long?  When life feels broken all around you, where do you turn?

When farm life is all that you have lived and a passion you have enjoyed, why would you want to say “it is time to get out”.  On one hand you know, financially time is up and borrowed funds have been exhausted to keep your livestock in production and to pay the bills.  Yet on the other hand, farmers are fighters.  We have been here before, managing drought, we believe we will get through it.  How does one admit that the fight may be over?

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The compassion may be all around us, people caring and helping in our community where they can.  The support for the agricultural industry has been so greatly received.  But the charities are unable to really help to solve a bigger problem than one could imagine… as 10 bales of hay donated, “will only feed our stock for 2 or 3 days”.  Then the farmer is on their own once again.  With no income and the need to borrow more money to pay the never-ending bills.

But the truth is… there are only 2 things that will get us through this drought.  Consistent rain allowing time for growth… and money.  Money to feed the remaining stock, money to spray the weeds that are emerging, money to pay for farm vehicle maintenance, money to pay the household bills, money to pay interest on an over-enlarged loan.  Nobody can help farmers at this level… we can only help ourselves.

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How much more debt does a farmer get into before drawing the line?  If only someone could tell you.  The decision comes back to the farmer… a decision so very difficult to make.  Farming is a gamble… and so is the decision to stick with it or get out.   As a farmer, how do they make that decision and feel confident that the decision was the right one?

Making the decision is the hardest.. and controlling the feelings of inadequacy despite being out of one’s control.  There is no failure or shame… the drought has placed this heavy burden on the farmers shoulders.  There are other chapters in life… just turn the page.

My blog has become my voice to express the importance of our industry and to share the pain of our farmers.  I wish all the pain and worry, experienced by our Australian farmers, to just disappear.  Their work is of so much value and is significant for the future food security of our nation.  But mental health is more important at this time.  Please show a little kindness and understanding to the person hiding behind the farmer persona.  Life is really tough on the land… much more than is ever revealed.

Take care, Karen.

“Decisions are the hardest thing to make,

especially when it is a choice between

where you should be and where you want to be.”

~ Author Unknown

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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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