HALLS Creek farmer Lucy Gallagher is urging people to think about where their food comes from, and what it takes to produce that food, by sharing her experience of stress brought on by drought.
The wife, mother, nurse and farmer wrote about her family in a Facebook post in early July, and she’s been overwhelmed by the response.
The post has since been shared more than 7800 times, and received an incredible 1800 comments in support, leading to an appearance on the Today Show.
Lucy, with her husband Gerard and children Nicholas, 7, and Molly, 5, run sheep and cattle on their property Tarrabah.
While they’re set up to feed stock, the ongoing stress that goes into organising feed, negotiating prices and finding storage solutions – on top of normal farm maintenance – prompted the Facebook post.
Lucy penned the post while waiting for Gerard to finish work in the middle of the night.
That night, it was organising silos, ready for a delivery of feed the following day.
“We had a truck coming the next day, so he was organising silos, but we’d also booked the ewes in to be scanned, so he had come in for a quick coffee at midnight, and was going out again,” she said.
In part of the post she wrote: “I’ve always considered him (Gerard) to be my rock, but lately I’m finding more and more that we are each other’s. The stress caused by this drought is extraordinary, much like the drought itself. We’ve been through it before and consequently we’ve put serious effort and money into improving our farm’s resilience to dry times… but this one is truly a ripper”.
Lucy said she felt nobody else realised how hard he was working and “how committed we are to keeping our livestock alive”.
“I actually wasn’t going to post it, because I worried about what people would think, but I’m sure it went viral because a lot people could relate to it.
“A lot of people were feeling undervalued in their role as farmer, and I feel like, after that point [seeing other people in the same position], people started to talk about the drought more.”
The Gallaghers have been feeding since early March. They have good relationships with feed suppliers, as they’ve been lotfeeding young stock since 2016.
“We took advantage of the low-interest loans for farm infrastructure, and installed two big silos,” Lucy said.
“With the drought, our business plan hasn’t changed much, but the margin has changed, and there’s a lot more work, because we’re now feeding the breeders as well as young stock.”
While the family has prepared the farm well for drought, she wrote in her Facebook post:
“Perhaps the hardest part is having to look at the depressing, barren landscape that is everywhere, and the hungry, sad eyes pleading to be fed. It’s tough. Interestingly, you won’t hear my husband whinge. He’s just getting on with the job. He probably should whinge though. The role of farmers in this country is seriously underrated.”
While country kids are built tough, the Gallaghers have made a conscious effort to continue their routine to lessen the impact of the drought on the children.
“When they’re at school I’m getting the cattle fed and the bookwork done, but we have taken them to feed cattle because sometimes we struggle to get everything done,” Lucy said.
“We really value education, and we used to be really good with their homework and readers, but this term we’ve just tried to prioritise the basics, and that’s our evening meal.
“We always try to eat together and have that family time with no distractions.
“Then we just try to get them to sleep at a reasonable time, but we’ll stay up with bookwork or organising the next day.
“The kids just don’t need to be exposed to all of the misery that comes with drought.”
While keeping the family unit strong is the main priority, the Gallaghers have also been checking on neighbours and other farmers in the region.
“I try to catch up with a few of our neighbours when time allows but I often come away feeling sad because they’re often flat and depressed … it’s hard to be positive in such a sad situation, and it’s hard to see them struggling,” Lucy said.