Tottenham grain grower and Merino breeder Terry Fishpool is behind a movement to show solidarity between country folk and city dwellers during this terrible time of COVID-19 lockdown.
With the whole state under lock and key food producers on the open slopes and plains are beginning to better understand what it's like to live a constricted life. More important than that Mr Fishpool reminds the reader that country producers have a renewed empathy for those stuck in difficult circumstances.
"Our farm was badly affected during the drought," he said. We received some wonderful letters from people in the city that gave us a great boost during that time. I wanted to show my support for those in lockdown and, hopefully, send a bit of hope."
There were some tough decisions to be made during the worst of what became a string of natural disasters from 2018, and there were some examples of hope and kindness exhibited by fellow food producers. One Lachlan Shire neighbour received hay from a friend in South Australia who he had assisted 30 years before. Mr Fishpool says farmers reaching out to those in urban lockdown could help forge bonds that might last for a very long time.
"We are so inter-connected, so inter-dependent on each other," he said. "During lock-down people are re-discovering home cooking and baking and it's good to know Australian food is grown to a quality and standard as good as anywhere in the world. But farmers need consumers. We need each other.
"I got the idea of hanging a spoon on the gate when I thought how a child is fed their first solids - they usually take them on spoon," said Mr Fishpool.
"It's our way of saying thank you to the city for their support when times were bad. We appreciate the help they gave us during drought, fire and flood. They made us feel not alone."
In the bush things have changed for the better and for those in the big smoke good times will also return. A little kindness and support between all Australians will help see people through and so Mr Fishpool has encouraged friends and family to hang spoons on their farm gates as a message of solidarity for those doing it tough under lockdown conditions. "I chose spoons as it symbolizes that we don't want anyone to go hungry. Growers across Australia are hard at work on the farm making sure that even through this challenging time, Australians still have safe and nutritious food on their supermarket shelves."
"When I was young I thought farming was an honourable thing to do because we provide benefit to others. But we have come through a period when farmers were seen as destroying the land and animals. In the 1982 drought, which was very similar to the one we have just been through, it was so bad I thought we wouldn't have anything to come back to. When the season changed we had a crop like no other - with wheat to 100 grain a head when 45-50 is more usual. That convinced me that the land was just waiting, ready to go. It just needed moisture and tender loving care to make it work.
"For the first time in our generation the city is experiencing a similar crisis - this is their drought. Businesses are failing, there is no income. However, as food producers we are lucky to be able to continue to support people in lockdown with our capacity to feed 75 million mouths - or three times our population. As a result farmers provide enormous food security to our nation.
Mr Fishpool hopes the concept takes off with urban dwellers behind closed doors who might consider hanging a spoon in their window - perhaps alongside a printed calendar with a texta pen hanging on a string to mark off the days.
"It might be a sign so those around know you are okay and operating," he suggested. "It might be a distraction or a job for the kids in some families. The hope is that we can get through this together and that we can rebuild our hopes, dreams again endeavouring to provide for brighter future for all."
The concept of hanging a spoon might be considered a bit like tying a yellow ribbon around the trunk of a tree during war times to symbolise lost family. That movement inspired a 1973 chart topper by pop singers Tony Orlando and Dawn. This offering has so far attracted internet interest on social media under the hashtag #hangaspoon.
"That idea came from my daughter Fiona, to allow people to contribute with photos and stories," explained Mr Fishpool. "I thought the idea of a symbol had to be simple and affordable for all.
"It's just a message to city folk and all in lock-down: You are not alone. Give a wave, make a call, say nice things; let us get through this together. I left out smile because it is hard to smile with a mask on, but when we can, we should. I have heard the comment that we smile with our eyes. Maybe a new concept if we are going to live with masks for a while. Stay safe."
The cause has garnered support from GrainGrowers with producer engagement manager Shona Gawel saying: "Our farmers have hearts of gold; so many have been in touch to see if there was any way they could help, as they watch and hear news of people doing it tough."
More details in next week's edition of The Land!
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