By Tom Hawkins, AFL Players Voice
Country people are never ones to complain. You often hear about farmers always wanting more rain, but that doesn’t mean they’re complaining. It’s just the way it is on the land.
I grew up on a farm just out of Finley in the NSW Riverina, about 20 km north of the Murray River. They’ve had less than a third of their usual rainfall so far this year.
My dad Jack – who played 182 games for Geelong – still runs the farm. I haven’t been up to Finley for a bit because of my football season commitments with the Cats, but I know through conversations with him, and with family members and cousins that are still up there farming, that it’s starting to become quite tough.
In a way they’ve been lucky in that they’ve had small amounts of rain at probably the right times. I know the 80 or 90 millimetres of rain that has fallen so far this year isn’t a lot, but they’ve been hanging on OK, especially compared to some of the farmers through northern NSW and Queensland that have been battling for longer periods of time.
So obviously while the rainfall figures don’t read that well, they’re doing OK for now. But it’s starting to turn.
Dad says it’s becoming quite dry and he’s starting to make decisions on the farm, and being proactive with what he’s doing stock-wise just to prepare himself.
The farm is pretty diverse because Finley is irrigation country. Dad’s got summer and winter cereals, rice and canola and wheat and runs some cattle and some sheep. It’s been a good snow season in the mountains and, when all that snow melts, it’ll end up in the Murray River and it will lift the water allocation for farmers in our part of the world.
Further north where they rely entirely on natural rainfall, the problem is worse. The people up there have got stock dying and they can’t do anything about – they’ve just got no water.
So when I say my dad and the farmers around Finley are going OK, I mean compared to those farmers.
But we are really starting to see the effects of it being pretty dry in Finley, and it’s still tough times when it’s your profession and your income getting affected.
And the thing with drought is you never really know when it’s going to end.
The period through the early 2000s when I was younger and living at home, we had eight years when we were technically in drought. It was pretty tough going year after year after year.
Being younger I can’t remember the finer details, but enough to know dams were empty and crops were struggling year after year. Throughout this period my parents showed an amazing amount of strength and optimism considering what was happening on the farm.
That’s why, as the drought of 2018 started to hit hard, I knew I had to do something, no matter how small.