Real Life

Drought disaster: 'We'll never leave the land'

By Jackie Brygel Farmer Ann Sloane is helping to bring hope back to rural battlers, and you can too... Name: Ann Sloane
Her dream: That all Australians support drought-stricken farmers on Woolworths' "Backing Our Farmers Day" Ann Sloane knows all too well just how tough it can be working on the land during a crippling drought. She and her husband Alexander, who live on a property in Savernake in southern New South Wales, recently suffered their third major financial loss with the farm's dry-land cereal project. But while their farm ? along with so many others across the country ? has been ravaged by the drought, Ann and Alexander can't imagine living anywhere else. "Alexander's family selected this block back in 1862," explains Ann, 56. "He's been farming full-time since the 1960s. I was a country girl and also have a strong affinity with the land. "Doing what we do is full of challenges, but the rewards are very real. And we feel we have such a strong family heritage here and such a love of the land, so we will continue on." Parents to four grown-up children, the enterprising couple recently began diversifying into other areas, such as prime lamb, tourism and photography, to bolster their floundering income. "None of them raises amounts as large as a wheat crop would, but we're doing what we can," Ann explains. "You have to try to be adaptable with this drought. "We have rainfall records dating all the way back to the 1860s. The drought in the last few years has broken all of those records." Deeply concerned about the level of despair among local farmers, Ann and a friend last year organised a drought support dinner at Ann's local RSL club. "It's heartbreaking for some farmers," she says. "They don't know what's going to be around the corner from day to day. "The dinner I organised was in response to the suicides that I heard about in the area. People were just without hope. It can be overwhelming, the blackness that they feel, and they do think there's nowhere to turn. "I wanted to try and bring a message of hope and faith back into people's lives and show them that they can get through these tough times," she continues. "It can't ever be that tough that you should take your own life, and that was my motivation. We had a full crowd for the dinner and it was a really moving night." Ann also urges everyone to participate in Woolworths' Backing Our Farmers Day. On Friday February 20 Woolworths will donate the entire trading day's profits from all purchases made at any Woolworths or Safeway store to our farmers. Woolworths expects to raise more than $5million from the day. The money will be used to fund emergency assistance grants and community infrastructure projects in rural Australia. "It's important to generate an understanding in the city of what lies behind the supermarket shelves. This day helps to do that by raising awareness."

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