David Peters’ family-run farm and their property at Allora in the south-east of the Darling Downs epitomise what’s happening in regional Queensland.
David’s the south-east representative on the AgForce Grains Board. He was born in Allora and grew up on the property next door.
In summer, David, his wife Tanya and their two kids, produce corn, sorghum, sunflowers and mung beans. Their winter crops are mostly barley and chickpeas.
But not lately – not thanks to the drought.
They’ve missed a winter crop for the past two years. David’s father and grandfather never missed a winter crop in their lives. The previous two summers haven’t been anything to write home about either, and things are only going to get worse.
David’s most worried about the upcoming summer – there’s no forecasted rain and no moisture in the ground. He says they’d need an awful lot of rain to even consider planting. If they don’t get any, there’ll be no planting at all.
David says drought preparedness is vital: During the good seasons you have to put away fodder, and money, or you won’t see the tough times through.
He emphasises planning and technology and stubble cover – stubble cover for infiltrating the moisture when it does rain, for holding it in when it’s not.
But for all the planning a farmer can do, David says there comes a time – a point in every drought that lasts long enough – when even the best-laid plans fall through.
But you can’t beat yourself up about it. You can’t – you mustn’t.
The dry affects people differently; a lot go into their shell. That’s why it’s important to get people out, to get them into a social situation so that they have a chance to talk to others.
There was an AgForce get together recently. AgForce CEO Mike Guerin and south-east Cattle Board Member Belinda Callanan addressed those gathered at the Peters’ family home.
David says it gave everyone in the region a purpose, if only for a few hours, a chance to have a beer and a yarn, to get things off their chest and see that they’re not on their own. There’s no one farm getting rain when they others aren’t.
The long-term weather forecast is bleak, so David, his family, and everyone else who’s doing it tough is battening down the hatches and trying to hang in there.
But it’s not only farmers who are suffering – it’s entire regional communities too.
David says if people in rural areas don’t have the money to spend in the towns, those small businesses end up closing their doors and they don’t come back and then where do the farming families go. It’s a vicious cycle being played out all over the State.
David doesn’t know how he can stop it. He doesn’t know what else anyone can do.
What he does know is that we need each other, we need to band together, we need to be there to support our mates.