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    Resilience Stories from the Walcha District #1

    brett jordan hMmsCFYJBb8 unsplash320As part of her work, Kruthika Nagananda, Disaster Risk Reduction Coordinator with Walcha Council, has been interviewing community members to understand their experience and learnings from recent disasters.

    Kruthika says that personally, the stories have given her greater understanding, and helped give a positive boost to her work.

    The stories coming out of Kruthika's interviews really do have a powerful influence, and Southern New England Landcare would like to  share these stories in a series over the coming weeks...

    Southern New England Landcare acknowledges Kruthika Nagananda as the recorder of the following story.

    Story # 1 - Rob Blomfield

    Dear oh dear, when does it all end? From going through the storm, to drought, to bushfires, to COVID, and unbelievable rain for the last three years; I realised that it all ends! It made me realise that I can survive and be resilient.

    To keep surviving the bad times, my only mantra is "Keep moving forward, don't look back, be ready to adapt to all the changes". The world keeps moving and we have to keep moving with it. We are in the business of supplying food, with this increasing world population hence I know it is an efficient business - this keeps me going.

    Rob's background

    I was born and bred in Walcha and I am 74 years old. I was educated in Armidale, and made the choice to go on the land when I was 18. I have been married for 46 years with two boys. Growing up, I was involved in many community activities including tennis and cricket, representing the Northern Tablelands, Northern NSW, and NSW country teams for Cricket. Now I am involved in Rotary, Rural Fire Service, NSW Farmers Association, my business, various community clubs and different committees. This helps pushing through the hard times.

    The last few years have been testing. There was a storm, I remember, the entire house was shaking. It was like a jumbo jet taking off, trees were all over the garden, fences were destroyed. We still haven't been able to clear all the trees from the storm of 2018. Luckily the storm missed Walcha township.

    Then drought - which was a result of nine years of below average rainfall in Walcha. One year of the drought means nothing, but when it starts to compound in the following years, it impacts the soil moisture, feed supply and the livestock which lose condition. It killed 40% trees on our property. The repercussions of it are still evident. Getting fodder during the drought was difficult. Not knowing when it was going to end is the worst part. We were running out of water, we were running out of money, we borrowed money, trying to keep the livestock alive. It was so dry during the drought, bushfires had to come! In a silly way, the fires were a distraction from all the stress that was created by drought, but it wasn't. It added to our problems. The amount of money flowing out of the business when none was flowing in was dreadful.

    My typical day during the bushfires (from beginning of the October to Christmas) started from 5am in the morning. I would ring Greg (our local captain) and make a plan for later in the day, preparing back burning and firefighting. We had the entire neighbourhood involved through preparation of vehicles, and equipment etc. It was a challenge to get sourced water since everything had dried out, we used our private property water for most of it. Post preparation, I had breakfast and headed off feeding the livestock and doing farm work. I would come back at 4.00pm, have dinner and head off to fight the fire. It was a relentless

    South Coast, Canberra and South Australia brigades had come to help, however at the end when the south of NSW and Victoria were burning, we couldn't go to help them, we were totally exhausted fighting our fires!

    In the middle of the bushfire, my mother-in-law died, with everything happening we had to push her celebration of her life back for three months. A week after the celebration, there came COVID; everything shut down. Walcha was a good place to live during COVID, it was nice a family time. However, the economy dropped and prices increased. I sold my wool I had in stock as I thought the world market would collapse. But that was a mistake. For the next four months, it rained and rained. It was a great Christmas present. The country has never flourished like the last three years. With the rains, and restocking, there was a boom in the market. My decision to sell off the stock meant 50 years of genetics were gone! These things are beyond our control, especially farming through different variables. It requires decisions to be made quickly on the go. Sometimes there are bad decisions made, but it is important to forgive yourself, you can't let it get to you.

    When we think of climate change, no one knows what is the right thing. We have to believe what looks best for us and for the community. We all believe we are doing our best.


    I define myself as a farmer, but more than that being part of everything on this land becomes crucial in order to protect this land. If we don't do it, no one else does it. There is a saying, "look after your land, and the land will look after you". Doing so has improved my assets which has in turn improved my financial capacity.

    In the early days, that is what our family did. My brother and I developed this land, eventually we bought more land. When we had children, we wanted to give them the opportunity, in order to achieve it, we needed to be financially independent. Hence we took steps, setting up a super fund and investing in share markets. This allowed us to have a stable income. The Farm Management Deposit Scheme is the most beneficial tool for farmers. When there were good times, I could deposit money into the scheme; and when there were bad times, I could utilise it. It helped me manage the business for years and plan for the future.

    This allowed our boys to take over our business, and establish it into their own business. All our businesses are different, but we work together. Having a good partner, family, and friends makes it easier, for which I am grateful. Fortunately, my boys came back into the business which was a huge relief. I have been farming for 56 years, having the boys as a support has eased a lot of my burden. My father died when I was young, and I lost my support. I had to make a lot of my decisions along with my brother, but having my kids by my side has been a big support. The younger generation's support is crucial, they know what to do and they are able to keep up with everything! My resilience has helped me nurture them, and now they are good at doing it themselves.

    During these difficult times, cutting down the business was the last option. It always comes down to cutting down our lifestyle. I remember Rotary had distributed coupons in the community, that helped! More than helping business, it helped our well-being.

    The important thing I learnt in life was, things end! Everyone in the farming community knows that everything in price that goes up, comes down; and vice versa. All bad times end and all good times end, it is just a question of surviving. In those times, there are always people to help. One of my wife's friends from Sydney helped us through drought. It showed there are people to support me and my family, and we are not all alone!

    Walcha is a community that has always been supportive. We look after each other. The little things we do for each other help a lot. Farmers usually feel isolated, and in the midst of feeding, no water, fires, and smoke, there is nothing good about the place, but there were always people to get me through it. There were ways to get together and share our stories through a meal, or a drink. I remember ringing up my neighbours in Walcha one Saturday in the middle of drought, and fifty people turned up for the Sunday lunch! It was a special time.

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