Doing It For Farmers organiser says drought conditions are ongoing

According to the NSW DPI indicator 98.8 per cent of NSW is still experiencing drought. Photo: Amy McIntyre
According to the NSW DPI indicator 98.8 per cent of NSW is still experiencing drought. Photo: Amy McIntyre

The organiser of an online drought support group is reminding people that the hard times farmers are facing with the ongoing dry are not over yet.

Sue-Ellen Wilkin, creator of Doing It For Our Farmers, started the Facebook page in May 2018 initially as a toiletry drive for rural women but it soon became a food donation drive after going viral.

Ms Wilkin said she thinks it may have taken off so quickly because they helped fill a gap in the type of support that looks after the general needs of people.

"We have the big charities that are doing the hay and the water (drives), but nobody was looking after those needs of the general public that didn't want to donate money they just wanted to give a small donation and have it go to a farmer," she explained.

Ms Wilkin said the support stretched right across the country side, so coordinators were set up throughout western NSW.

At one stage up to 25 coordinators working the areas where they lived and supporting farmers through donations in the area and even supported tradespeople and farm-hands affected by the drought.

They were also supporting rural groups and communities including at Baradine, Mudgee, Walgett, Warren, Gulgong, Tooraweenah and Come By Chance.

"There was this huge humanitarian drive to support farmers," Ms Wilkin said.

While things slowed down by December 2018, the group-founder said just a few months ago they did a donation drive and were able to fill their food pantry with items for at least six months.

"And then the fires hit and everything went heywire," Ms Wilkin said, adding that they were fortunate to support the RFS during those times.

"At the moment we haven't had any enquiries to do an drop-off donations, so it has stalled again..."

According to the NSW Department of Primary Industries' indicator 98.8 per cent of NSW is experiencing drought.

"We're still plugging away, reminding people that the drought isn't over. They (farmers) need emotional help now because once the rain comes in it creates different problems," Ms Wilkins explained.

"It's not steady rain, the weeds have gone ballistic, which is killing livestock... there's a whole new range of problems that have arisen. The price of grain has sky-rocketed because there's none.

"So if farmers can get part of their groceries for free, know there's a steady flow of income... then that is one less worry to have."

Her goal now is to keep the morale up and while Ms Wilkins knows she cannot do what the rain has done, she is hoping to keep spirits high and awareness in the forefront of everyone's mind.

"Just because you can see green doesn't mean to say this drought has finished. This is a green drought," Ms Wilkins explained.

She is hopeful people can take this initiative and do something in their own towns to support drought-affected farmers.

Ms Wilkin is based in Tamworth, and the Doing It For Our Farmers office is located at the Tamworth City Uniting Church.