According to the latest seasonal update from the Department of Primary Resources, the drought remains wide spread across all of New South Wales. 99.9% of the state is in drought conditions and 33.5% is classified as being in intense drought. The western area of New South Wales is particularly affected with prolonged drought conditions. Due to high temperatures and evaporation, much of the rainfall in January and February was ineffective and the rainfall forecasts from the Bureau of Meteorology for the coming months are not promising. In short, our farmers are really struggling particularly out west and they need all the support they can get.
However, these communities are not forgotten. All over the state, individuals, community groups and churches are reaching out a helping hand delivering food supplies to desperate farmers.
Farmers who are usually too proud to accept handouts are gratefully taking them and recommending others who are struggling.
Coonamble Adventist Church has been running a food pantry for the past two years and have recently extended their operation by starting an OP Shop. The Foodbank typically draws in community as far as 100km away from towns like Quambone, Galarganbone and Gilgandra. The ‘Front Door Farm Ministry’ founded and run by Vicki Nyveldt – a Baradine resident, and member of Coonamble Community Church - covers an area of around 220km. Vicki packs her 4WD with food and necessity hampers and delivers to farms.
‘Unprecedented’ is a word we are hearing from farmers to describe this drought. Farmers who are usually too proud to accept handouts are gratefully taking them and recommending others who are struggling. A fly over the farms reveals nothing but dust. Most have reduced their stock to core breeding and below. Crop farmers aren’t sowing and have come off the back of failed crops in the past two years.
On Australia Day 2019, Vicki was recognized due to her service to drought-stricken farmers and received the ‘Community Citizen of the Year’ award. Vicki said she “could see hard working people doing it tough, and also observed many would never ask for help”. Thanks to the support of Sanitarium through food donations, Adventist Community Services and the local CWA, Vicki is able to continue visiting and servicing over 40 farms in the area.
Similar food delivery initiatives are supporting farmers in other towns as well. In Narrabri, Pastor Keith Stockwell asks his church members to help stock parcels each week and delivers them to drought affected farmers, thanks to the support of the local retirement village and Sanitarium.
In Lightning Ridge, Beulah James from the Adventist Church delivers food parcels to up to 30 farmers covering distances of hundreds of kilometres. She also organised a social evening to lift the spirits of the local families. Our Aussie farmers are resilient, and even now, Beulah says “they are hopeful and optimistic” that the rains will come.
Let’s support our community out west. These foodbanks across the state are run by volunteers, funded by private donations and need resources to continue to help their community. Donations of food, finances and even vehicles would help them be more effective in their work. If you would like to get involved and support drought affected farmers, please contact Change My Life.