Helping drought-affected farmers, rural communities

RURAL BUSINESS: Megan and Duncan Trousdale of Odgers and McClelland Exchange Stores in Nundle. Photo: Benjamin Urquhart
RURAL BUSINESS: Megan and Duncan Trousdale of Odgers and McClelland Exchange Stores in Nundle. Photo: Benjamin Urquhart

WITH goods such as food, hay and even water being delivered to the region’s farmers daily, more attention is turning to helping entire communities affected by drought.

While farmers are currently bearing the brunt of the big dry, New England North West businesses are also suffering the flow-on effects.

And some philanthropists have raised concerns that donations of groceries from outside the area – while generous and helpful – are not helping those businesses.

But they say there are plenty of ideas for keeping the dollars flowing to both: visit, buy online, and donate wisely.

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Tamworth regional mayor Col Murray is among those who have called for people to support areas in drought by visiting them and spending money, saying it was also an ideal way to forge stronger links and understanding.

“There seems to be a genuine desire with city folk to actually connect with the farming people,” he has said.

But, as one popular inner-Brisbane blogger told her thousands of readers, support from a distance was also possible.

She’s listed several online shops from our region, saying “businesses in these drought-affected towns need us to spend our city dollars with them”.


Nundle’s Odgers and McClelland Exchange Stores owner Megan Trousdale said the post had resulted in 140 online visitors to her shop in four days.

“It’s a very generous move of hers to list our country businesses,” she said.

“Not a lot of families are in a position to [visit], so if the option for them is to jump online and support a country business, it’s an option that may be more accessible to more people.”

Uralla Wool Room owner Nicola Wilkins said her business had been feeling the drought’s effects for many months, and she would probably have to “reconsider hours” of staff come summer.

She said she would “certainly” encourage city and coastal shoppers to buy from shops in dry areas.

“It’s just not the farmers, although it’s them predominantly across the whole community affected by the situation – and their resilience astounds me,” she said.

“It’s really lovely, really heartening to see a lot of help coming from the city folk as well, who are sometimes a bit removed from how it is for people in the country.”


Grassroots charity Doing it for our farmers has asked people to consider donating prepaid Visa cards instead of goods bought elsewhere, and others have suggested vouchers to independent stores such as IGA.

A Red Cross spokeswoman recently advised donors that cash was “the best help you can give”.

“The businesses in the small towns are suffering just as much and, if people get cash, they can then spend it in those areas at their normal outlets.”

Nick Summers, who owns two convenience stores in Tamworth, said the main thing was to spend with independent stores, no matter where.

“If it’s going to a smaller business in Newcastle or something along those lines, not Coles and Woolies, then I’m all for that,” he said.

And Tamworth’s Carlo Cavallaro, who owns several IGAs in the region and beyond, said “it would be very difficult to be resentful of people helping their fellow citizens” even if they bought groceries from outside the area.

“If people want to buy them in Timbuktu and send them to Tamworth, I think we should be overwhelmed with gratitude,” he said.