I met up with one of the lovely ladies who started Doing it for our farmers this week.
Did you know they also help struggling small farm operators? No strings attached.
Sue Ellen Wilkin looked fatigued as she sat down on a stack of small hay bales and invited me to take a seat on a pile of livestock lick blocks.
Saying she has been busy would be understating what she, and the Doing it for the Farmers volunteers, have achieved in a very short period of time.
The Facebook group started by Renae Madame and Sue Ellen predates the many drought support groups now raising funds and collecting items for regional farmers struggling due to the ongoing drought.
Their aim when setting up the Doing it for the Farmers Facebook group was to raise awareness of the worsening drought conditions being experienced in regional NSW and to aid those struggling as a result of it the best they could.
It has now received donations from other groups and individuals from just about every Australian state.
“It started as a local thing but now it is state wide and beyond,” Sue Ellen says as she leans back into her hay bale back rest.
The relief of getting off her feet momentarily shows in her face before she gets down to business again.
She doesn’t want to talk about herself. I was granted access to the vacant shop front the group have been allowed to use, free of charge, as a storage, sorting and packing base for a reason.
"I want to met the one at the bottom of the worse off pile because he must be in a terrible state."
To encourage more struggling farmers to come forward and accept a little bit of help that comes with no strings attached.
“Pride is the big thing stopping a lot of those in need accepting help and women are more likely to come forward than men.
“Someone is worse off than us. We have heard that over and over and honestly, I want to met the one at the bottom of the worse off pile because he must be in a terrible state.”
“Another thing I’ve heard a lot are the words I’ve failed which can’t be further from the truth,” volunteer Kerry Frazier adds.
Sue Ellen shakes off her weariness and quickly responds to this.
“They haven’t failed. No one has failed. In times like this it doesn’t matter how much drought proofing anyone has or has not done. No one can make it rain.”
“This is no one’s fault and there is no shame in accepting a little help in the form of some basic items so the money usually spend on them can go towards something else like buying feed for the livestock.
“The funding now available is great, thank goodness what is happening on the land has finally been acknowledged. Although we have heard many primary producers are finding all the paper work overwhelming and too hard so they give up without trying. That is really sad.
“The packages released so far are only for primary producers or the big farms but those with small farms don’t have access to anything.
“That isn’t the case with us. We want to hear from them as well as primary producers because it is as much an animal welfare thing for them as it is for large commercial herds and flocks.”
Sue Ellen said small farm operators usually don’t derive 100 per cent of their family income from the farming and grazing activities as most have a small income streams from working outside of their farming practice. These operators have so far been excluded from any of the current Federal drought funding offers.
“We are here to help them too but not many small farm families have come forward for help."
“The thing is I see these people, with a lot of personal sacrifice, being the ones to have the best chance of keeping quality breeding stock going. These will be the stock sold back to primary producers to re-establish the states herds and flocks when the drought is finally finished with us.”
Since starting the Doing it for the Farmers collection drive the group, all volunteers, have received donations by the box, palate, ute and truck load from all across Australia which are sorted and packed into care packages.
The group have disturbed their “hug in a box” personally to those who have contacted directly and dropped them at farm gate mailboxes. But they, and most of the groups that have formed to aide drought effected farmers, need people to come forward so they can help them.
“I’ve had other groups contact me looking for names of people they can help. All the groups are in the same position as us – we can’t help if you don’t know who or where you are.”
Sue Ellen said people can contact her direct by leaving a message on 0447 552 256. Also check out the Doing it for the Farmers Facebook page for more information and their Messanger service.
Doing it for the farmers work alongside Aussie Helpers and the donated products are getting distributed to the farmers through the Rural Chaplin and Drought Angels. This donation drive is run under The United Church Tamworth.
Looking to the future.
Sue Ellen is already starting on preparations to make sure regional drought effected farmers can stress less this Christmas. Stay tuned for more information as it comes available.