It’s hard to explain, to someone who hasn’t lived ‘in the bush’, what it’s like to be here day in day out. There’s a lot to love about living here, when I’m not finding creepy crawlies in my house. One of the hardest times to live in a small town is when the industry around you is struggling. This is especially true if the reason a year isn’t going well is due to something as simple as rain.
This year has been a tough one in Western Australia. Where we live we had some good summer rain, and it looked like our growing season would be okay. People bought machinery, ordered fertiliser and purchased grain contracts at a high price (so they would be delivering a set amount of grain at a set price that was relatively high and therefore make a profit).
Then it didn’t rain, at all. Not in March or April when we started seeding. Not in May nor June when we finished. In fact, we have not had a major rain event since February this year. Which means the crop, that had access to a bit of sub soil water from early this year, has nothing to grow on, and it either hasn’t emerged from the ground at all, or is so tiny we simply cannot harvest it.
I think we can all agree that water is pretty necessary to grow a crop (or anything at all), and unfortunately we don’t have the option of putting our sprinklers on for an extra day to keep everything green. So things are starting to get very stressful around our area.
No crop means no income. No crop also means no contracting work spraying, harvesting or seed cleaning and the small farms and businesses that rely on that work will also suffer majorly. The small towns that rely on farming as their primary industry also decline, as workers are laid off, spending at the shops decreases, and people withdraw from the community as they grapple with the stress of their situation.
When a farmer has no income they can’t spend money. They can’t afford to send their kids to dance classes, or sometimes even boarding school, but it also means they start to ask- where do I get the money to plant a crop next year? Will it even grow, is it worth planting next year? It is then that the tension in the area starts to mount, and having opportunities to talk to a friend become more important.
So please, next time you remark on the beautiful weather we have been having (or worse how much rain Perth has had) spare a thought the the people that are suffering for the lack of rain, who are watching their pride and joy grow dusty and sparse and wondering if they can afford to try again next year.