How our farmers are diversifying to mitigate drought impacts
Technology, regenerative practices and water solution infrastructure are some of the ways farmers are adapting when drought or inclement weather events occur as they strive to build long-term preparedness and resilience in the agricultural sector.
At Suncorp we understand agribusiness communities are facing the daily strain when managing the widespread and devastating drought conditions.
However, it’s during these times we’ve seen how resourceful and resilient our farmers can be as they adapt accordingly, whether through diversification, partnerships or investment in technology and infrastructure.
Recently Suncorp Group CEO, Steve Johnston, travelled to Pittsworth to visit local agribusiness customers who have evolved their business practices during tough times, and are proving diversification can be successfully implemented to safeguard against ongoing drought conditions in the region.
Meeting with the Youngberry family on their property, Andrew and Jennifer, explained to Mr Johnston how they’ve successfully adapted their strategic business operations to secure their future in farming. Mr Johnston was able to witness first-hand how the family’s implementation of water infrastructure and sustainability practices have reshaped their business model.
“As with most rural enterprises, the drought has greatly impacted the Youngberry’s operations, but they’ve implemented some innovative water infrastructure to safeguard themselves further,” Mr Johnston noted.
The Youngberry family have also managed to sustain a diverse agribusiness portfolio with the bulk of their operations focussing on two main areas: cucumber production and organic stock feed production.
Also in attendance during the visit was Suncorp’s South West QLD District Manager, Adam Keen, who has longstanding relationships with many of the producers in the region.
“The drought has impacted Andrew and Jennifer Youngberry’s business in ways they never thought possible,” says Mr Keen.
“To mitigate these unprecedented conditions, they’ve reduced the landmass cultivated for crops, sold livestock and invested thousands of dollars in critical water infrastructure to ensure they have an adequate supply of clean water. Our regional communities are really doing it tough.”
“These communities are where our people and customers live, and they are the families that carry the responsibility of feeding the nation and are the custodians of our land. It is a big job, one that our customers, and our team, take seriously.”
During the visit Mr Johnston also noted how proud he was to hear from the family about the ongoing support provided by the Suncorp team on the ground to help operations continue.
“The family told me just how important it’s been to have the support of a strong team from Suncorp around them.”
“We’re very lucky to have some of the best in the business representing Suncorp Bank in regional Australia. They’re doing an amazing job of managing bushfire-related inquiries while still keeping up with the day-to-day work. They’re a credit to our business and exemplify the Suncorp spirit in action.”
What You Can Do To Support Our Farmers
While there is still much uncertainty long-term for the survival of Australia’s rural farming towns, supporting the local communities, whether through charitable donations, tourism or buying local, is vital.
Charities such as Drought Angels and Rural Aid provide holistic support to drought-stricken communities, donating vital funds and volunteer work. In the past 12 months, Rural Aid has dropped 66,824 bales of hay in 599 locations in drought across Australia and provided hundreds of counselling sessions and almost 2,000 phone sessions to farmers, all funded by public donations.
For many of these towns, tourism is still a critical income source; to the farmers and to the communities in which they live. Every dollar a farmer receives, the surrounding town profits approx $1.32 through onward spend. Spending in the local townships provides vital income to the businesses.
Minimising your water usage at home is something we should all be practicing every day. Restricting shower times, applying water-saving devices to your taps (saving hundreds of litres of water per day), and implementing simple things such as redirecting ‘grey water’ from your washing machine to water the garden are easy ways to use water more sparingly. To improve your home’s water efficiency, check the Queensland Government’s water usage website.
Photography captured by Toowoomba-based photographer, Anna Singleton.