Drought, Governments, and City-Centric Focus

I live in rural NSW. Although I’m not a farmer, I know quite a number who are, both in my personal life and my professional life.

As a town dweller, I can bemoan how dry the countryside is, but it doesn’t have quite the same impact on me that it does on my farmer contacts. I might struggle to keep my garden alive (fortunately most of it’s native) but I don’t have to make potentially future killing decisions about livestock and livelihood.

I’ve recently joined a Facebook page called ‘One Day Closer to Rain.’ It’s full of farmers, supporters and rural people, along with some city dwellers who are keen to help. You see, much of rural NSW, Victoria and QLD are in severe drought. Please take a look. Join it. Learn from it.

My farmer friends and clients have had almost no rain for more than a year now. Despite most of them putting feed aside, (as they do, just in case), they’re now at the end of it. Some are buying it in at excessive cost to try and keep their breeding stock alive. As one farmer said – you can sell excess stock to try and stay afloat, but if you sell your breeders, you’ve nothing left to start again. It’s not as simple as ‘just buying them back. These breeders are the end product of years, and sometimes generations, of hard work. They are breeders because of the genes they pass on, and once they’re gone, they’re gone forever.

I was chatting to a bloke involved in hay running a couple of days ago. They transport donated hay to those who have none, trying to help farmers stay afloat in the bad times, knowing that one day they might in turn be helped by those they’ve assisted. Country people are remarkably generous. Our conversation turned to mental health in rural  areas. He made a heartbreaking comment: sometimes hay running is not only about the feed, it’s about trying to keep people alive. The suicide rate is horrendous.

I’ve heard the same comments time after time from farmers, asking exactly how much longer they’re expected to be ‘resilient’ when rain is not something they can control. They’re asking how much longer they have to hang on by their toenails when state governments appear to be ignoring their plight. They’re asking how much longer they have to put up with uninformed people commenting that they ‘made the choice to be a farmer’ (yes they did, but they also feed you – don’t forget that), and that they could ‘just move to a city if they don’t like it.’ (Perhaps the commenters could ‘just move to the country’ if they find city living isn’t working for them.) I probably shouldn’t have said that but….oh well….

They’re also asking that media weather people take a moment to think before they speak and bemoan the rain that might impact their weekend plans, or the weekend plans of their city viewers. Rain can put a damper on a day out, but it doesn’t put a damper on things at all if you have no water in your dam, only flush the toilet once a day because of lack of water, or your stock are starving.

It seems like such a tiny thing doesn’t it? To ask that mainstream media doesn’t whinge about rain? To see things from someone else’s perspective? You see, while to a city dweller rain might mean changed plans, if you’re in drought, rain might quite literally mean the difference between life and death.

When you’re hanging on by a thread that national news program with its weather person grumping about rain might be the thing that snaps your thread. Or snaps someone you know’s thread. Think about it for a moment. Put yourself in the place of the farmer who supplies your food. Imagine how it might feel when a weather person says something like ‘fortunately it looks like the rain will only be here for a little while and things should improve quite quickly,’ when all you can see from your kitchen window is dust, dry ground, and no feed for what you have left of your stock.

‘Improve quite quickly’ is not what you think. All you think is that the dam will remain dry, and the creek won’t run, and can we make it through another month, or is this really the end of it all?

If you’re reading this, pop over to ‘One Day Closer to Rain.’ Have a look, see the pictures, hear the stories, and even if you don’t comment, learn a little more.

One Day Closer to Rain.


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