Three years ago Heyden and Eleanor Lane were vegetable farmers in Nymboida, New South Wales, struggling through the area’s worst drought in recorded history. Now they’re the largest organic turmeric producers in Australia.
Heyden has no doubts their turnaround is due in large part to the Farm Household Allowance program and Department of Human Services Farm Household Case Officers.
“It’s been brilliant,” Eleanor said. “It’s given us the opportunity to pour everything back into the farm, and put food on the table.”
Both Heyden and Eleanor applied for the allowance and found the three-years of assistance had worked well for them.
“It’s been a good long-term solution,” Heyden said. “We’re going to bounce right out of this drought.
“We had 24mm of rain over a 17-month period, lost our entire mature ready-to-harvest crops and completely ran out of irrigation water. With very little money we were faced with some hard decisions.”
Fortunately, the Farm Household Allowance gave Heyden and Eleanor time to assess their options. It also paid for consultants to advise them on their transition from mixed vegetables to organic turmeric farming which is now paying dividends.
Their Farm Household Case Officer, Cath Curan, proved to be a valuable support.
“Service was unbelievable,” Heyden said. “It’s been good to have someone to talk to and Cath’s been a big help.
“From on our knees, like we were, we’re going to come out of this the largest organic turmeric producer in Australia.”
Heyden and Eleanor sell their turmeric in a number of ways, including online. They’re looking at expanding operations further to supply large supermarket chains in Australia, and even to export into Asia where turmeric is commonly used in cooking and health products.
Heyden predicts they will stop getting the allowance a few months before the three years are up.
“Lots of farmers have come off the allowance voluntarily,” Cath said. “They’ll say they’re ok as it has helped them over the hump.”
Cath has a mixed bag of farmers she works with, including oyster, dairy, cucumber, garlic, alpaca, banana and blueberry. Some of these farmers applied for the allowance because of drought conditions or one-off devastating hailstorms.
Cath has also put Heyden and Eleanor in touch with a Rural Financial Counsellor to help them apply for a grant for future expansion. With a custom-designed turmeric harvester and big plans for the future, the family’s future looks bright.