How we can all help Aussie farmers doing it tough right now

It’s hard not to notice (especially in the last few days and media attention) that there are huge parts of our country in drought. Even down here in the (usual green rolling hills) of the Southern Highlands it’s dry and there are farmers down the road, over the hill, all around these parts that are struggling.

It’s heartbreaking to see families suffer and struggle and especially when so many of us have no clue even that this is happening. The people that brings us our food, our clothing, what we eat and drink are struggling and right now they need our help. While I spend much of my time on social media right now wondering just how so many people can take their entire families on overseas holidays (is that just me?!) can you imagine not being able to feed your stock or family? Or spending thousands and thousands of dollars to plant something that may just end up in the dust? Killing your animals? Feeling like you have let down generations of your family before you as family farms are destroyed on your watch? It’s heartbreaking.

I’ve been watching it all and feeling pretty confused about how and where to help and so I thought I would ask on Instagram today REAL people, REAL women who are out there doing it tough. The wives and partners and Mums of farmers who could tell us how we can really help out. I put the call out and had an amazing response that has really helped me work out practical ways that we can all help our brothers and sisters out in the country who work bloody hard, do so much for us that we all take for granted and navigate this tricky job of who and HOW to help people.

There can be funding pages for individuals but that can be hard as what makes one family or group more deserving than another? What about those people too proud to ever ask for help? What about the businesses in small towns that have so many people on credit, never knowing if they will be paid, how do we REALLY help everyone?

Here’s some of the top suggestions that I had today from people actually out there, suffering and all SO grateful for some information going out to the rest of us who are all pretty clueless. Hopefully this can be a one stop resource (I’ll keep adding to it as it comes to hand).

This article from the ABC was a really great resource on the Do and Don’ts of helping farmers.

You can make donations or volunteer your time through some of the following websites. People on the ground told me “I just got off the phone with a girlfriend who is doing it tough in Coonamble. She mentioned Drought Angels and Salvos. They are the only outside support that have come to town so far. Drought angels have assisted with food and fuel cards as well as hampers filled with food and toiletries. They were the first non profit to reach out.”

You can check them all out and chose how and what you feel comfortable donating. A bale of hay for $20 or $100, gift cards, diesel your time…whatever.

Buy A Bale
Drought Angels
Lions Club Need for Feed
Rural Aid Australia
CWA Drought Relief
Aussie Helpers
One Bucket
Feed A Farmer Today

One reader said “money is the most important (rather than food or toiletries) as it gives them dignity to CHOOSE what they need to buy”. Another said “the problem with groceries  is that it takes away from local suppliers who struggle just as much as farmers often holding credit for indefinite periods, unsure if they will ever be paid”. Visa prepaid cards can help with this (although be careful of the terms and conditions of these). Particular towns also have gift cards running “Here in Temora NSW, the businesses in town come up with the idea that gift cards that are able to be spent at any business or shop in town. So money is kept locally and supporting small business.” I think that Forbes also have these (they received them 2 years ago when it flooded). One reader pointed me to Why Leave Town Promotions as a place to buy local gift cards so business can stay in these small towns.

I had a suggestion from someone to think about things you buy, say like wool, and go direct to businesses that are doing it tough. People like Millpost Merino in Bungendore NSW who makes beautiful wool and could use the business! My mate Styling You today on her Instagram Stories showcased and highlighted a whole heap of businesses from throughout the country that we can all buy from right now. Online stores and businesses that we can help out. Check them out today.

Photographer Edwina Robertson is sharing stories of the drought through her Instagram account which is definitely worth taking a look at. You may have seen her with Malcolm Turnbull on the news on Sunday night as he announced the Government’s assistance package (which in itself may be too little too late, time consuming and lots of hoops to go through that could still rule out many people still struggling).

If you have kids that go to school with boarders keep an eye out on the kids and check in. One reader said “If you have friends with kids at private schools make sure their kids check in on any boarders that they know. Kids know what is going on and carry a lot of the burden as well. They may be feeling guilt and extra homesickness about being away at school when things are tough at home.” and also this, “many of these boarder kids have had their pet cows and horses shot as there’s nothing to feed them.” The mental impact affects everyone in the family.

The main thing and message that I heard from these women is that they want people to KNOW. Try and put yourself and your family in the shoes of these good people. Try and keep remembering these people beyond the media hype and attention and know that this is going to be ongoing with no rain forecast for the warmer months ahead of us.

The Top tips

Try and visit these areas and take your tourist dollars there!
If you can buy local and Australian made and produced do it!
Support rural based businesses online or in person.
When buying from the supermarket choose Australian grown stuff.Don’t buy cheap milk!
If you can try and buy from farmers markets or from producers directly.
And KEEP DOING THIS over and over again – even though the medias hype dies down.
Send letters or support, show you care, show that WE SEE YOU.

You know the thing about farmers though? Besides their resilience? They are eternal optimists. The hope of rain, good prices, good weather, whatever it is they are hopeful that things will turn around and not one to ask for help. But you know what? They need it and even if they are too proud to ask for it, these are some practical ways that we in the city or surrounds can help out in practical ways. This drought is bad and it’s likely to get worse before it gets better. These are proud, hardworking people that are doing it tough, mentally, physically, financially, I can’t fathom the worry I hope that we can all do a small part to make it better for them.

If you have any other suggestions please let me know in comments and I will add them in. I hope this helps you guys, the whole process has helped me for sure too. And to any farmers, wives, sisters or families out there, I hope you know that we see you and we are here to help you. A virtual back rub from all of us (and me) to you doing it tough x

Comments

  1. Another thing to remember is that this drought is a long-term thing. It takes more than a good storm to end it. We need regular decent rain over a period of time. Even when it does end (it will eventually) farmers will still do it tough for a few years. After destocking, it takes several years to breed up your flock or herd again. The land takes time to recover after so long without rain. Those who grow crops will need time to plant and harvest their crops. Also, many farmers have to go into debt to buy grain for their animals and keep their farm running. These loans need to be repaid so the cost will continue long after the rain comes. Farmers need the continued long-term support of the whole nation if our businesses are going to be viable. While buying a gift card or donating to charities that support farmers is awesome in the short term, we need Australians committed to buying our products in the long term.
    It’s also worth remembering that not all farmers are in the same boat. We are fortunate because our area is not as badly affected as many, and I have a good, well-paid job off the farm, meaning that we are going to be fine. There are many who are a lot worse off than us.
    There is so much more I could say, but will stop here before I write a whole essay!

  2. Thanks for this article BabyMac. My only comment is around the idea that buying from farmers markets is better than via supermarkets. The big chains move ALOT of Australian produce which comes from Australian farmers. Perhaps the advice could simply be buy Australian produce!

  3. Hi Beth, I agree whole heartedly with everything you have said. But maybe we all could do these things all the time, not like buying that bloody cheap milk, buying locally from growers, buying Australian fruit and vegetables. I have been throwing money into charity tins wherever I see them. And I think it’s a great idea to buy from little businesses in the affected regions. Kathryn x

    • Completely agree – I am hoping to keep remind people often too 🙂

    • Having a list of small businesses that we could purchase from and support would be really helpful… sometimes its hard to know where to start for local purchases… not everyone need merino products, and quality milk should be a no brainer !!

  4. Thanks for this very comprehensive post Beth. You may have already read this link? I think it provides a little bit of balance in what has become a very emotionally charged issue in the media. http://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2018-08-07/farmers-challenge-public-perception-of-drought/10078840

    Love your work but haven’t managed to call in for a while, hopefully we all get some rain soon. x

  5. This is great, thank you. Its been hard to know how to properly and directly help. Do we know which milk available in the highlands means farmers get paid properly? I’m never sure which ones are just more expensive supermarket brands and which ones are actually good to buy.

  6. Thanks for such a thoughtful and helpful article. That cheap milk is so annoying!

    • IT sure is. So many dairy farmers around here get up and work for nothing – it costs more to do what they do than what they get paid. I can’t imagine too many other industries where there wouldn’t be a revolt about it! Poor buggers.

  7. Thanks for this post Beth. I grew up in the same rural community where my own kids and I live now. While my family were not full-time farmers once Dad married my Mum and they had kids, we were mostly self-sufficient with animals and vegetables, fruit etc; and the family income was dependent on farming. So when drought or other acts of Mother Nature hit, the farmers struggled, and so did we. So too, did others in the community around as. And it continues today. (Dad’s businesses included carting grain and nuts, and delivering milk, cream and butter.) It’s a hard life, and I’ve seen our farmers and business owners here adapt and change and be extremely smart to stay on the land or to continue doing what they love and believe in. And if farmers give up, sell up, or are driven out, who is going to feed if not our children, but our grandchildren? Often too, people are too proud to ask for help, and it is those charity workers on the ground, in the local areas, who make all the difference.

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