This morning, Mario Giacosa rang us to check in with next week’s orders. It wasn’t long into the conversation before he started to crack on the subject of the drought. He said he can’t recall it ever being this bad in Stanthorpe, and with the outlook for dry conditions until January next year, he doubts whether he’ll have enough water to start his season in Spring.
He said the main worry is that the bees are thirsty. And thirsty bees tend to not want to provide their much needed pollination services because most of their energy is spent looking for water. So, right now, he’s working out a plan to ensure he can irrigate the trees in Spring, so the bees can have a drink.
Because, no pollination, means no fruit. And no fruit, means no business for Mario and his wife and kids. And no farming business, means no food for us city eaters.
He said he recently attended a meeting with other farmers hosted by the federal government, and he informed them that there are some really simple ways they could assist (like waiving tax for a year), instead of the complicated online grant process. While there, he heard that currently in Australia we’re losing between 2-3 farmers to suicide a week - all related to the effects of the drought. He said most farmers are asset rich, but in a drought, it means nothing because you need cash flow to service loans, send kids to school, put food on the table. With so many farmers carrying huge debt, the prospects are poor.
The conversation paused and I asked him how he was feeling. He said things were tough for him, but tougher for others. He feels lucky because he exists as part of a local food system - supplying Food Connect and running his own market stall at Mt Gravatt Showgrounds every weekend. He said his customers are checking in on him every weekend, asking ‘Are you ok?’. He said lots of farmers don’t get that sort of care and concern because they’re so isolated from the people who buy their food.
While I’m writing this, Juanita from Echo Valley Farms drops in and we talk about the drought, the politics of climate change, and their diminishing hopes for a turnaround. If they don’t get rain by January, they’ll be out. Randal and Juanita are young, regenerative farmers, doing their best to repair the soil, look after their animals and feed us highly nutritious and ethically grown food.
They’ve recognised the signs of declining mental health, and have tried to give each other short breaks away from the farm, because “it’s always in your face”. They too love the connection with supportive customers, because it reminds them that they're part of a community of care.
She says her goodbyes and I start crying - because a city girl has no right to cry in front of a farmer.
Then Rob walks in, and I cry even more.
It passes, as all emotions do, and then I get angry. I’ll stay angry for a while, I think.
There's not a lot we can do but we can keep reaching out. We want to send personalised messages of hope from our customers to our family of Food Connect farmers in our bioregion. If you're keen to send a message, please email us your words and we'll compile them and deliver them in the next few weeks.
And don't forget to do your rain dance this weekend!
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