The Farmer Connecting A Nation Through Drought

Cassandra McLaren has helped thousands of farmers to feel less alone.

In the 12 weeks since Cassandra McLaren set up a Facebook page to connect struggling farmers, she received a text message.

“Cassandra, you have saved my life,” it read, from a “special person” the farmer and mother is in close contact with through crippling drought.

“It’s such a humbling experience that they have even shared that with me,” McLaren told Studio Ten.  

“It gives you a reason to keep going.”

READ MORE: Drought Crisis: What You Need To Know In Under Five Minutes

Cassandra McLaren set up the 'One Day Closer To Rain' Facebook page. Image: Studio 10

In May, McLaren and her husband were forced to sell some stock from their property at Merriwa in the Upper Hunter region of New South Wales.

This is not unusual, but the sheer scale was enough to bring her daughter Emma to tears.

“We had a double decker semi come in. Emma said to us as we drove up the driveway following it, ‘what’s that doing here?’” McLaren said.

“I said we needed to sell cattle … the ones in the yard. She asked why, and I said we can’t feed them anymore. She just burst into tears.

“It was heartbreaking to see that even though she knew that is what we normally do, she sensed something was different.”

READ MORE: How To Help Struggling Farmers

Her daughter’s despair led McLaren to set up the page on Facebook that has since connected a nation of farmers, rural and city Australians.

With 60 percent of Queensland and the entire state of New South Wales now drought affected, her voice is more important than ever. 

“We are so used to working side by side …. (I just wanted) to watch out for them,” she said.

‘One Day Closer To Rain’ offers both support and practical assistance to farmers across the country who are feeling the effects of drought amid an evolving national conversation.

It has become a space where members can share their experiences and, most importantly, feel less alone.

READ MORE: What's Keeping Farmers Positive Through Tough Times

At time of writing, the page has over 26,000 members.

“There are so many friendships that have been made, support networks that have been created,” she said.

McLaren has publicly shared the personal toll mediating the page has taken on her -- to which hundreds of members responded with their overwhelming gratitude.

One post urged the community to “put out your boots for Cassandra”.

Image: Jenny Marie via One Day Closer To Rain Facebook page.

“We have made a start but there’s still a lot more that needs to be done to help farmers and to be able to carry on and feed their animals,” she said.

If you want to help Australian farmers in need, you can donate to a registered charity. Donate online to Rural Aid's Buy a Bale, Drought Angels, Aussie Helpers or Lions' Need for Feed. You can also support farmers by buying Australian grown produce at your local supermarket.

If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or rural helpline Virtual Psychologist on 1300 665 234 (or send a text message to 0488 807 266) 

For further information about depression contact beyondBlue on 1300 22 4636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.