What if the cost of food wasn’t simply measured in dollars, but also measured in names and faces? The question ‘what does it take to feed a family?’ takes on a whole new meaning. Who are the names and faces feeding our families – and our nation?
Have we lost touch with where our food comes from and what it takes to feed us? Sadly, many Aussie farmers think so. In fact, in a recent Aussie Helpers survey of farmers in western Queensland and New South Wales, almost nine in 10 farmers said they thought metropolitan Aussies had a lower awareness and appreciation of farming and food production than before.
Farmers are universally acknowledged as the backbone of society. But, as we struggle with our own pressures of modern life, are we taking the fundamental gift of food to eat – and those responsible for this gift – for granted?
Winsome Mumford, a primary producer with beef cattle breeding and fattening operations near Dubbo in New South Wales, said she wished more people knew, not only where their food comes from, but what it takes to produce it.
“People want a high quality, good tasting steak on the BBQ. But that steak can take years to produce, and during those years farmers are constantly managing multiple risks coming from areas out of their control: environmental, financial, economic, over-regulation, trade-related, etc,” said Winsome.
Like millions of Aussies right now, many farmers are struggling. Inflation and costs are soaring, widespread economic uncertainty and staffing challenges abound, and biosecurity risks, long-term climate forecasts and catastrophic weather events continue to pound them.
Winsome said she was no different to any other Australian at the moment in seeing the increases in goods and services.
“Some of the biggest challenges in farming are things that I have no control over, for example the weather, the economy, the cattle market and finance market. They are all bigger than me and I have little influence on them.
“Agriculture isn’t like any other industry. All farms and farm operations are different.
“Individual operators and family farms often don’t have the resources or the cash reserves immediately available when the need arises. The same goes for improvement works for soil and vegetation, or when things outside of their control such as a drought or flood impact farm operations,” said Winsome.
Winsome said that there was certainly a sense of achievement in farming, which could be years in the making.
“Part of why I love what I do is working with livestock, getting to know my property and being outdoors. Farmers have deep knowledge of their property: soils, paddocks, vegetation, livestock. We gain insight and see opportunity.
“We also participate in something bigger – feeding and clothing the world. For example, beef is a nutrient-dense food and people need nutrients to be healthy and survive. I don’t think any other product compares in that way to meat.
“That’s amazing to be part of the bigger picture,” said Winsome.
Pictured: Winsome Mumford and Tash Kocks in Dubbo, NSW.
Tash Kocks, CEO of Aussie Helpers, said that Aussie farmers were working from sun-up to sunset to feed our nation – but some were struggling to feed their families.
“Aussie farmers fight hard to survive the tough times and – sometimes – they’re just too proud to ask for help.
“Many farmers continue to struggle alone. The irony of Aussie farmers going without food for their families is tragic,” said Tash.
Tash said that it was important for farmers to know that they were not alone.
“I’m driven every day to ensure farmers know that help is just a phone call away.
“Aussie Helpers provides immediate help – wherever, whenever and however – farmers and farming communities need it, which makes us different to many other charities.
“We help thousands of farmers every year, whether it be providing animal feed, financial assistance, food hampers, fuel cards, laptops, school fee support, student tutoring, access to mental health services, and little luxuries like Christmas hampers and gifts for kids.
“Our team provide open ears, minds and arms for farmers who simply need to know they are not alone,” said Tash.
Winsome said she first contacted Aussie Helpers during the drought when she was looking for any kind of help at that time.
Aussie Helpers provided wide-ranging support: a simple cup of tea, a smile and friendly ‘hello, how are you going?’, food hampers and water supplies, livestock feed and even fuel cards.
“It was unbelievable. And it wasn’t so much the dollar value.
“It was the relief that I didn’t have to reach into my pocket to pay for one more thing that day.
“The Aussie Helpers’ depot is a cheerful and welcoming community meeting place. It’s a nice place to go and visit because they always have a smile on their face no matter what, and smiles are contagious – even when you’re living day by day and trying to work out what’s coming next,” said Winsome.
Aussie Helpers is entirely funded through donations and sponsorships and relies on volunteers and our small but mighty team to support thousands of farmers every year.
Follow more stories about our farmers, support Aussie Helpers or to help Aussie Helpers to help Aussie farmers, visit www.aussiehelpers.org.au.
This is a sponsored article produced in partnership with Aussie Helpers.