Staying on their property 600km north west of Sydney has always been an uphill battle for farmers Anita and Ken. When they moved in 25 years ago, their to-do list was never-ending. They’ve had the electricity connected, built cattle yards and sheep yards, fenced the perimeter and put dams in. Anita puts it mildly when she says, “We’ve been a bit busy.”
The work has been intense and the upfront costs were crippling. “Even to put electricity on the property costs $90,000,” Anita says.
The harsh climate is another challenge. Temperatures in their area range between minus 7 and 52 degrees Celsius, and for many years drought nearly brought them to their knees.
Despite the extremes, they’ve made a home for themselves and would never choose to move. This means accepting a life of compromise and sacrifice.
Their nearest grocery store is 110km away. If they need mechanical parts or clothing, that’s a 300km drive. As fuel prices climb, especially in regional areas, it’s a devastating hit to their finances. And, as is the case for many farmers, there isn’t much left in the bank at the best of times.
“It’s been very hard trying to keep the farm,” Anita says. “Out of our 25 years here, 14 of those years have been drought. And out of the 14, for 8 years we were losing money. We had no idea the drought would go on for that long.”
When things feel futile and impossible, it takes a lot of resilience for farmers like Anita to stay on the land. Unfortunately, even when drought subsides, their stress and uncertainty continues.
“There’s so much that we couldn’t do through the drought, we just had no more funds. And you just don’t know, day to day, how long you’ve got and if it’s going to rain.”
At times like this, when it’s an uphill battle for farmers like Anita and Ken, small rays of light give the energy and inspiration needed to get on with things. That’s what our Frontier Services Outback Links volunteers provide when they show up where no one else will. They give practical help to isolated farmers and vital emotional support as well.
“It was after the drought that the volunteers came and stayed at our farm,” says Anita. “They’ve done everything from helping to move livestock for shearing to having a big clean up and decluttering. And another couple have helped me build yards for livestock. So it’s been absolutely fantastic for me. More than anything, it’s just good to have someone to talk to.”
Anita has become firm friends with one of the volunteers, Wendy. They’ve even been on ‘girls trips’, making the long trek into town to get their hair done together. Having the companionship and a chance to look after herself for a change was very special to Anita.
Our Frontier Services volunteers and supporters change the lives of people in the bush. Join us in helping our farmers stay on the land by hosting your own Great Outback BBQ this September!