The Stakes Are High, writes Grace Brennan
The other day I received a text message from my husband. It was an image of a barley crop rising out of a furrowed earth. No words accompanied the photo. There was no need. I stared at it for a long time. There was a lot in that image. Joy. Hope. Gratitude. Pride. Pressure.
After three years of drought, we are the lucky ones who received rain in time for Autumn planting. Many are still waiting. The barley I was staring at in the text was the first crop that we have planted in a long time. An incredible sight to see the poor, dry earth respond in such a generous way. What promise it delivers.
When the rain arrived, it transformed the energy in my household and my community. The phone started ringing. It didn’t stop. Lining up contractors, fertiliser, labour. Planning. Planning. Loud laughter. Excitement. The odd silence. The rising optimism is tinged with the tension of what is at stake. “It’s like Santa Claus has arrived,” one neighbour tells me, “but his sack is empty. It’s not over yet.” The pressure of making the rain pay weighs heavily.
In amongst the activity there is another shift. Working mothers and partners who have taken up the slack through the drought have to adjust to the old normal revisited. “I’ve just remembered what it’s like,” one friend remarks over the checkout line in our local supermarket. “Not that I’m complaining. I wouldn’t dare.”
It occurred to me that bush business is a little like that barley crop responding to rain. BFTB has inspired women, running businesses “in the middle of nowhere”, to develop a digital presence that has allowed them to connect with new customers (a development that has proven to be invaluable through this period of Corona lockdown) and new hope.
And, just like that barley crop, there is now a lot at stake. This new growth and opportunity will require nurturing and investment. While the farming seasons will surely rise and surely fall, off-farm bush business that is enabled and supported, has the potential to be a constant. A critical lifeline for rural communities and a revolutionising shift for women in the bush.