A sense of stewardship and care for the land is one of the defining values of a farmer. They constantly look ahead to plan, and rely on their ability to anticipate what a decision today will mean in years to come.
As a NSW Young Farmers representative, I speak to farmers across the Riverina every day. What comes through most strongly is the deep connection with the land they work, and an innate resilience.
It's especially now as our community faces up to some of the biggest challenges we've ever faced that we need that stewardship and connection to support each other.
This area has been through a lot in recent times. First there were the climate impacts: drought, and then the catastrophic bushfires that challenged us in ways we never imagined.
Now we have the coronavirus lockdown, which has left people isolated on their properties.
Many people are struggling, and there are many more who are burying their trauma under a blanket of work. So many are still trying to get ahead, juggling jobs with managing the farm, livestock care and now home-schooling children.
People who work the land know that we have to be adaptable. Conditions change, the unexpected is always around the corner. This is the life of a farmer, and perhaps why so many people seem to be quite remarkably getting on with the job at hand, despite the unexpected curveballs the year has thrown.
It's crucial that we recognise the impact both on ourselves and the people around us. We must not underestimate the time it takes not just to recover from trauma, but also burnout.
Once the coronavirus pandemic has passed, there will still be a recovery process from the fires and the drought, and the ever-looming challenge of addressing the impacts of climate change on our industry.
For some, the recovery may be a slow process of repair. Trauma may linger even after the fences are rebuilt.
With many still numb with exhaustion and overwhelmed, it's easy to forget yourself and the things that allow us to pause from our responsibilities.
Now more than ever, we need to look over the fence and reach out to our neighbours and communities to check in and ask if we can help. The smallest gesture can boost the morale of those who are feeling isolated and alone in what has been such an uncertain time.
Oftentimes I think that in our attempts to help others, we are lifted out of the feelings of despair and apathy.
Our resilience as a community comes from our ability to help each other, and the collective small acts of kindness we impart upon strangers and friends alike in the same spirit of stewardship we have always prided ourselves on.
Caitlin Langley sits on the NSW Young Farmers Ag Science Committee, and is taking part in the Farmers for Climate Action Wagga Community Resilience Forum on 12 May. Anyone interested in joining this free, online forum can register at: www.farmersforclimateaction.org.au/wagga_2020_forum
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