How Aussies saved a farmer: ‘I’ve cried a thousand tears’
FOR the first time in years, farmer Les Jones has something to smile about after an outpouring of generosity saved his mob of starving sheep from certain death.
The Sunday Telegraph yesterday reported the NSW farmer would this month shoot his 1200 merino sheep and lambs then bury them in a mass grave on his barren farm.
The skeletal sheep aren't strong enough to send to market but Mr Jones couldn't afford to feed them, making the mass shooting the only option.
The Jones' farming operation seemed certain to succumb to the driest 14-month dry spell since records began in 1900, until a flood of donations turned the tide in just a few hours on Sunday morning.
Farming charity Aussie Helpers founder Brian Egan said the phone was ringing off the hook from readers.
"Our donations have gone berserk and so they won't have to shoot the sheep. We'll have three road trains of barley for farmers in Goolhi within 10 days." Mr Egan said.
Les Jones' wife Laura was glued to the phone on Sunday, taking calls from complete strangers with offers to help.
"I've cried a thousand tears of joy this morning, you'd think I would have flooded our barren farm," Mrs Jones said.
"I can't remember the last time I felt so overwhelmed with joy and so humbled.
"I just wish the government and big banks had stepped in before the public had to come to our aid."
Mrs Jones' one Christmas wish was new carpets in her home, to replace existing flooring that has been badly soiled by abandoned lambs the family brought indoors to keep alive.
Fellow farming charity Rural Aid's Buy a Bale campaign was swamped with enough donations to fund a working bee to renovate the Jones' homestead.
Sydneysiders have united in support overnight - many putting pressure on the government to help Australian farmers.
"The Sunday Telegraph have done a great message getting the message out on the drought. I also appreciate that the links have been made available for everyone to read as I am 80km's from town & to far to drive for Daily papers & no regular mail service," one Facebook user wrote.
Another said: "This is so so so sad. Broken hearted for the farmers, and for the animals. Extremely angry that the government helps and supports methadone and injecting rooms … and our poor farmers are giving up their lively hoods and feel that there is no other way than to take their own lives. Such a sad, desperate situation."
"Everyone needs to contact there local and federal member of Parliament. This is not just about one farmer this is thousands and most importantly about Australian food security. Three farmers a week are committing suicide. Do you eat three times a day thank a farmer 60% of our breeding stock has been sold to slaughter this will take 8 to 12 years to bring it back to normal numbers and with a growing population and increased demand for export Australia is facing the real impact of a food shortage You only need to look at the price of bread up 50c a loaf already and the true impacts wont be felt for 6 to 12 months," another person wrote.
Rural Aid founder Charles Alder spent two hours talking to Mrs Jones to discuss the family's plight and how the charity could help.
"We'll organise this week to get grey nomads out to do some work to give the family a break from the daily grind and after Christmas we'll have a crew out there to give the house a mini-makeover," Mr Alder said.
Rural Aid last week purchased 5000 bales of livestock fodder to distribute to more than 550 NSW farmers. The fodder, such as sugar cane mulch and rhodes grass, will be distributed in 113 truck loads.
***Lifeline 13 11 14***