Feeling for our farmers: 2017 Drought

Times like these – one of the worst-ever starts to winter, and latest season breaks ever recorded for our region – are when our farming and rural communities pull together like never before.

A lot of the farmers across the NACC NRM (natural resource management) region are doing it tough this year, with the northern part of the WA Wheatbelt showing-up nationally as a “red zone hotspot” in terms of low levels of rainfall, soil moisture, seed germination and crop development. It’s been tough to see local farmers frequently in the news highlighting the scale of the problem.

Of course, Australian farmers are used to drought, and with increasing drought frequency and intensity, are having to prepare for them more and more in their long-term farm planning. However, for all of this increased awareness and preparation, nothing can really prepare us for the impact of a drought when it hits us as harsh as it has this year.

After the encouraging, late summer rains, the more recent months of autumn and winter have failed to reach double-digit rainfall records.

The field extension staff at NACC – many of whom are farmers, or come from (or have strong connections with) farming families – are acutely aware of the problem. Many experience the drought impact first-hand on their properties, or hear about it from neighbours and other farmers with whom they’re working with across the region.

On the bright side, they’re also hearing about the amazing resilience and strength that is characteristic of our farming community. I’ve also seen this among the posts on Twitter by farmers from our region (and other drought-affected parts of the country) who demonstrate, that among other things, they certainly haven’t lost their sense of humour.

Another positive is some encouraging feedback that we received from one of our field staff last week – after talking to Cadoux farmer Mike Kalajzic. Mike said that while driving around the drought-affected property, he was buoyed by the fact that whilst the crops weren’t looking too flash, the trees he’d planted three years ago with NACC’s assistance were thriving.

Mike pointed out that in years like this, he is pleased that he’d previously undertaken NRM works – like tree-planting – and was reminded to do more such work whenever he can.

“Driving around the paddocks can make me feel a bit negative,” Mike said. “But when I see all of those trees growing so healthily, it certainly picks me up. Despite the drought, the place still looks more beautiful than it would have – thanks to the trees.”

Here’s hoping the “winter” of 2017 picks itself up pretty soon and gets on with the job it’s meant to be doing.

In the meantime, I’d like to assure all farmers in the region that NACC is here to help if we can, and encourage them to reach out to one of our staff.

I hope the rain that fell towards the end of this week has kept things going … and that much more is on its way. Good luck.

Richard McLellan


1 comment

Hi Richard

We had a season in Mingenew when I was farming there from 1966 to 1975 when the rain was late,
began towards the end of June. Still was a reasonable season.

Got a bit anxious at that time!

Stan Maley

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