JUST six weeks ago Cassandra McLaren and her husband Peter found themselves with no choice but to sell 44 of their cattle.
Conditions on their 370ha property Kilwirrin at Merriwa in the Upper Hunter haven’t been this bad since they took over the property 27 years ago.
“We needed to cull pretty hard,” Mrs McLaren said.
“On a Monday arvo, we drove up the driveway behind a double-decker semi-trailer and my daughter asked ‘what’s this big truck here for?’
“I told her we needed to sell the cattle as we couldn’t keep them or feed them., and she became quite upset”.
That night the 49-year-old posted her thoughts on her private Facebook page and after being encouraged by friends, started her own Facebook page a few days later to help those also struggling with the drought conditions.
Today, the One Day Closer to Rain page has more than 14,000 members.
“The page is about trying to keep things positive and supportive,” Mrs McLaren said.
“I just wanted to say to people ‘watch out for each other and speak out’.
Despite doing it tough themselves — having sold off two-thirds of their stock just to keep their farm going — Mrs McLaren said there were others doing it even tougher
“Sometimes it’s the little things that break the camel’s back, like budgeting all the time and counting your pennies,” she said.
“There was one woman on the site who talked about eating only two-minute noodles because she needed the money for feed.
“Even those with jobs are finding it hard because they just don’t have that disposable income”.
Mrs McLaren’s page took its name from a saying her husband always said when asked by people how they were doing.
“He’d always say ‘we’re one day closer to rain’,” the mother-of-four said.
Devastating reality of drought in NSW
“And I really hope we are because at what point do you say you can’t do it anymore.
“When we moved here 27 years ago, we had no stock. None at all and we built it all up from nothing.
“And it’s terrifying that we now might be finding ourselves back in that position.
“That’s really scary”.
The site was quickly swamped with people offering their support — from supporting a local farmer selling eggs outside of Coles store in Tamworth or helping source hay.
There was one woman on the site who talked about eating only two-minute noodles because she needed the money for feed.
This week the site has started connecting farming families struggling to purchase formal dresses for their daughter’s school graduation with those wanting to donate dresses.
They have also teamed up with four charities — Rural Aid Australia, Drought Angels, Lions Need for Feed, and Aussie Helpers — who are all working directly with farmers.
RURAL AID AUSTRALIA
Money, food and time are what is desperately needed, Rural Aid Australia co-founder Tracy Alder said.
“We need money to be able to buy bales of hay for farmers and to be able to load up gift cards that can be spent in the local community.
“We also need volunteers for farm rescues, where we take a group of tradespeople to farms to finish jobs that have just become too costly for the farmer.
“We recently just returned from rebuilding a shearer’s shed at Walgett,” Ms Alder said.
“Giving back is one of the most amazing feelings, when you are out there at the farm speaking to the farmer and hearing their story. It’s very humbling for some people to receive that sort of help.”
Rural Aid Australia will hold a Black Tie and Boots Ball at the Bathurst Goldfields, Mount Panorama, Bathurst on Saturday August 11, MCd by TV personality Grant Denyer.