Drought is the spectre which hangs like Damocles' sword over every farming operation throughout the state.
Drought has an enormous impact on every decision made - whether it is the past drought from which you are still recovering, the current drought with which you are struggling or the future drought for which you are making preparations.
Drought is a constant; and it is to the enormous credit of many generations of farming families, whether on generational farms or employed by corporate investors, that Australian agriculture has evolved into a perfectly sophisticated industry.
For more than two hundred years, a European-style manner of farming has been practised in the driest continent where cropping practices, crop varieties and livestock breeds have been adapted to best suit the variable environment.
Obviously, most has been carried out in the naturally dry country; but a significant amount of fruit and vegetables, crops and livestock has been produced with the benefit of irrigation.
Food security was the impetus behind the development of the various irrigation schemes across the Riverina, many initiated more than a century ago.
It defies understanding, therefore, to see the current political rage to deprive farmers and farming communities of the necessary water to fulfil their social obligations.
Growing food is an obligation, because that is what the mostly urban based consumers demand.
This past year has seen many areas across the state plagued by drought.
It has been indiscriminate, but if we take as an indication, a guiding line through Dubbo and give or take 80kms either side, the northern half has been most sorely tested by a dry autumn, winter and spring.
The Monaro and south coast were likewise afflicted, while the balance had reasonable expectations of a good season.
Even in those areas, drought affected or not, it was still a lottery and you won if you were lucky to get under spring showers.
But September across the south was dry, giving rise to thoughts of the potential of failed crops and less stock feed in the spring.
They were saved by heavy rain in October and November, but not before an influx of stock to market drove prime and store prices down.
That an El Nino event was predicted by the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) and highlighted by 'the media', in many farmers and stock agents minds didn't help.
Many were the comments heard around saleyards during spring of 'the media' driving down stock prices with their incessant reporting of an El Nino event, based upon something happening in the Indian Ocean.
Being a member of 'the media', I could only listen helplessly to those tirades, many of which I had sympathy for.
I know what it is like to try and make money during a drought.
But how can farmers deride weather forecasts when their very livelihood is so dependent upon rain.
They have so much invested in land, inputs and infrastructure, their daily work and annual budgets are focused on looking westwards each morning.
Such is the lack of trust in BOM forecasts, that many farmers are seeking alternative views and subscribing to outlooks based on historical anecdotes, alignment of the planets, sun spots or the early flowering of native trees.
They all have a place in predicating an unpredictable event.
This is not to deride those farmers or those who provide that information - we are all in the same position of attempting to grow food and fibre at a reasonable cost and make a profit, that any indication of coming rain serves to raise our spirits.
Under the pink hat
I had not long turned fifteen years of age when my father raised the issue of my intended career.
It was a Saturday morning and we had just moved a mob of sheep before sitting on a log where he asked me what my interests were.
It did not surprise him, and I think he was secretly pleased, when I said that I wanted to go on the land, to be a farmer.
Growing up on a farm, I thought it was a foregone conclusion.
To live and work in the open air, with some sense of freedom of action and movement, I had no thought of another career path.
I believed that agriculture, the 'primary' industry was a noble function, the font of our society and respected by all for its material contributions to the common wealth of the country.
I had, and still do have a romantic view of working on the land - and the above 'Arcadian' photographs only serve to endorse that feeling.
I think it says a lot for a civilised nation, that such an emotion can be attached to an industry which has always turned on the whim of a cloud, without any fear of derision.
But I wonder now for the future of the family farm, the strength of the nation.
It seems that at every corner, each time they turn around, the family farmer is getting it in the neck.
From an urban based political and bureaucratic mindset which seems determined to undermine agricultural production at every opportunity and even gives the impression of 'hating' farmers.
And from an equally disinterested suburban and therefore insular consumer aggregation which has no connection to or interest in the source of their food - their only demand is that it be as cheap as possible.
They have no understanding of the damage that concept does to the health of the land and the families who strive to make a living.
They have no appreciation of the idea of 'food security', the basis of which is supported by the family farmers.
As we all head into the festive season, and knowing that we have each done our best during the past year, we are also conscious that every day is a day closer to rain, or drought.
And if I had my youth, I would not hesitate to follow the noble call of the land.