Frontier Services is Australia’s oldest bush charity, serving rural and regional communities for over 100 years. Recently the team from Frontier got in touch to share with us this story of hope.
The last couple of years have been really tough on Lou Higgins and her family. Their property on the New South Wales and Queensland border has been hit hard by the drought. But recent rain means that Lou considers her family one of the lucky ones.
Before the rain, the family was feeding their livestock for about 18 months through the drought, deciding to keep their 400 breeders rather than destocking.
“It was a gamble,” Lou tells us, “I did the calculations not long ago and we would have spent over $200,000 on feed to keep the stock.”
But it was a gamble that didn’t pay off. The family were eventually forced to destock and now have just 60 breeders on their property. The most difficult part for Lou was the knowledge that their property is on what she calls ‘good country’.
She told Frontier Services, “We’ve owned the property since 2003 and only had to feed one winter.” Before destocking they were on track to pay off the property in just a few years.
Now the future is uncertain. To generate some income to allow them to pay the bills, Lou has started a small business called Made by a Farmer.
“It was too much to put together a website,” she tells us, “so we just exist on Facebook.”
Lou sells unique handmade products, from grazing platters to gift box sets to lip balm. As their only source of income, Lou is hoping that the business will carry them through the unpredictable road ahead. In amongst all of the hard work that Lou is putting into Made by a Farmer, she still has to maintain her property.
Recently Lou contacted Frontier Services to see if they could find some willing hands to help take down a fence. For decades, Frontier has been connecting volunteers with people in remote Australia doing it tough through its Outback Links program.
Frontier put the call-out to its members and shortly after “angels from heaven” Mary and Roger Duckworth heeded the call.
Having volunteered with Frontier Services previously, the Duckworths knew that they could take on the task of pulling down the fence. But knowing that sometimes farmers don’t like to ask for help, they were ready to take on additional work as needed.
During that first week, Lou asked Roger, a retired builder, for his input on some renovations she was planning to do on the shed she was using as the Made by a Farmer workshop. She told Frontier that she was expecting to get a few tips and tricks that would be helpful.
What she didn’t expect was for Roger to say “Leave it with me,” only to come back with some fully formed plans and an offer for he and Mary to stay longer and help out with the renovation themselves.
Lou had been struggling with working in the old shed, which could be freezing cold in the winter and boiling hot in the summer. She told Frontier Services that when she was working in the shed last summer it was getting to over 45 degrees inside!
With Roger and Mary’s help, Lou was able to redo the roof of the shed, install insulation as well as some beautiful stained glass windows.
The Duckworths told us that it was a delight to be given such a creative task to do. When we spoke to her, Lou had nothing but praise for the Outback Links volunteers. “They were just the most amazing people! They were phenomenal.”
Now Lou is able to work comfortably in the shed and has been busy keeping up with all the orders she has coming in.
Roger and Mary told us that the most rewarding part of the time that they spent with Lou’s family was being able to give back to someone else. Mary recalled that Lou had told her, “I’m so used to giving to other people that I find it difficult to receive.”
Thanks to Frontier Services for sharing this wonderful story of hope with us. You can find out more about Frontier Services and its Outback Links volunteer program here: https://frontierservices.org/how-we-help/outback-links/