“She just stands there, like this, frozen,” he said, arms held stiffly by his side, gaze fixed in the far distance.
“It’s not easy taking on a farm right now. No feed around at all, y’know.”
It was a two-minute conversation on the side of a dusty gravel track about a little brindle bull I’d noticed on the roadside a couple of hundred metres back. But it stayed with me the rest of yesterday only to resurface in my dreams.
The farmer in the terry towelling hat I’d warned about the wayward bull was talking about a dairyfarmer my own age who is not coping any more. She owns the bull but she’s no longer the one to call about him.
Nor is she the only one.
There’s also the farming acquaintance who spent two-and-a-half hours in the supermarket the other day, just to get away from the farm and her husband, who has turned to drink to make his own escape.
Dreams, lives, families are being smashed to smithereens. Even so, change is coming at a faster rate than dairy industry bodies seem capable of recognising.
A few days ago, Dairy Australia, Australian Dairy Farmers, Australian Dairy Products Federation and the Gardiner Dairy Foundation issued a media release inviting farmers to be involved in:
“…consultation that will support the development of the Australian Dairy Plan, identifying key industry priorities and delivering transformative and positive change for dairy over the next five years and beyond.” – joint media release dated April 15
It’s fair to say that the responses in farmer social media forums has been nothing short of scathing.
And after DA chair Jeff Odgers abruptly ended an interview with ABC Rural’s Isabella Pittaway today when pressed on how the dairy plan would help farmers get through the immediate crisis, things seemed even bleaker.
Chatting with some innovators on behalf of the Australian Dairyfarmer mag, though, I’ve been impressed to see that not everyone is frozen.
Farmers are finding new ways to collaborate in the wake of MG’s collapse that offer glimmers of hope in what is a dark, dark time for so many.
But faced with the strong people overwhelmed right now with impossible choices, I really don’t know what to say, except that I am so, so sorry.
Maybe that’s what left Jeff Odgers speechless, too.