Doohan it tough

Fin­ley fam­ily fear for their farm­ing fu­ture

Southern Riverina news - - FRONT PAGE - By James Ben­nett

‘‘If noth­ing changes fam­ily farms are go­ing to dis­ap­pear; peo­ple will re­ally start to strug­gle.’’

That’s the harsh re­al­ity be­ing faced by 16 year-old Hay­ley Doohan and her fa­ther Bart who have ex­treme con­cerns about what might hap­pen to their op­er­a­tion over the next 12 months.

The Fin­ley or­ganic dairy farm­ers are just one small ex­am­ple of food pro­duc­ers in the South­ern Rive­rina hurt by the drought and im­pacted by the Murray-Dar­ling Basin Plan.

Be­cause the price of feed for their cows is too high, the Doohans have been forced to sell a large por­tion of their live­stock.

‘‘We don’t have the nor­mal feed we would have dur­ing sum­mer months so we’ll be try­ing to buy as much as pos­si­ble,’’ Hay­ley said.

‘‘We’ve re­duced our dry stock as well as our milk­ing herd be­cause we don’t have the feed.

‘‘We can’t eas­ily get our hands on feed at an af­ford­able price.

‘‘Be­cause no-one (in this re­gion) is able to get wa­ter they are not able to pro­duce hay or grain, so if they can’t do it how are we sup­posed to get the sup­plies we need?’’

Hay­ley loves the lo­cal com­mu­nity and fears it won’t be long be­fore the suf­fer­ing will be­come too much.

‘‘Who knows what’s go­ing to hap­pen?’’ she said.

‘‘Lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties are go­ing to soon be­come very small be­cause there’s noth­ing to keep fam­i­lies here.

‘‘It’s re­ally hard be­cause you’ve grown up with fel­low farm­ers. It’s not just fam­i­lies which you’re close to in a small ru­ral com­mu­nity; it’s your neigh­bours, your friends.

‘‘They help you get through dif­fi­cult times and when they start leav­ing you have to look for a new sup­port sys­tem; you build re­la­tion­ships in small com­mu­ni­ties.

‘‘I think they (gov­ern­ment) just ex­pect you to sur­vive; they set leg­is­la­tion you have to fol­low and meet but don’t have that sup­port to help you meet those stan­dards they set.

‘‘It’s dis­heart­en­ing with the Murray River at its present height. It’s there and so close but we can’t use any of the wa­ter.

‘‘It’s just like they’re tak­ing the cake with­out shar­ing it.’’

The Year 11 Fin­ley High School stu­dent said it’s hard to find the mo­ti­va­tion to join the agri­cul­ture in­dus­try.

‘‘It’s not a great sell­ing point. Some peo­ple are en­cour­ag­ing us to look else­where for jobs in dif­fer­ent in­dus­tries and have a wider view on what we can do and what’s best for our fu­ture be­cause things are get­ting harder.

‘‘They want us to have a fu­ture in some­thing that makes us happy.

‘‘Farm­ing is my life; I’ve grown up in farm­ing and with­out it I wouldn’t be who I am.

‘‘This is a great place to grow up; I love be­ing part of the farm­ing com­mu­nity.

‘‘I hope to have a few de­grees at uni. I might not nec­es­sar­ily come back to the farm, but def­i­nitely want to be in the agri­cul­ture in­dus­try if there is a fu­ture there,’’ Hay­ley said.

The Doohan fam­ily moved to the South­ern Rive­rina 16 years ago af­ter work­ing as dairy farm­ers in the Table­lands, North Queens­land.

Mr Doohan said by pro­duc­ing or­ganic milk and dairy he’s do­ing what the gov­ern­ment en­cour­ages, how­ever its seems the gov­ern­ment is not re­turn­ing the favour.

‘‘We came to the area be­cause there was op­por­tu­nity with wa­ter and the land, as this area can grow just about any­thing.

‘‘But with­out the wa­ter we just can’t do it. I keep ask­ing the kids, ‘is there go­ing to be a fu­ture here for us?’.

‘‘That’s the big­gest prob­lem. No-one can tell us if we have a fu­ture here or not. So we have to en­cour­age the kids to fol­low their pas­sion, but your pas­sion might not be here.’’

Mr Doohan said when the re­gion has wa­ter it’s the per­fect place to grow food.

‘‘The cows per­form and that’s why we went or­ganic; for ex­am­ple we pro­duce our own com­post to help the en­vi­ron­ment.

‘‘We get no help from the gov­ern­ment to do these things, we’ve done it off our own back. They’re push­ing us to­wards more nat­u­ral or­ganic farm­ing but there’s no in­cen­tive.

‘‘We’re try­ing to teach our kids that even though we’re ir­ri­ga­tors we still have to look af­ter the coun­try.

‘‘Now the gov­ern­ment has taken the wa­ter from us it’s stop­ping us from do­ing the things we need to look af­ter the en­vi­ron­ment.

‘‘When we ir­ri­gate we have bird life around the place; there’s noth­ing here at the mo­ment,’’ Mr Doohan said.

Hay­ley and Bart Doohan stand on the banks of their dry and bar­ren dam at their Fin­ley farm.

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