Life in the dead centre of NSW
One Christian farmer shares her struggles and hopes
There’s a monument near Kathy Fragar’s 9000-acre dust-coated property in rural New South Wales.
The landmark notes what you can see if you check out a map of where Kathy and her family live.
“We’re digging into the last of our resources.” – Kathy Fragar
Located west of Tottenham, south of Nyngan and north of Condobolin, the Fragars are, quite literally, in the dead centre of NSW.
When Eternity first contacts her, Kathy doesn’t have time to talk and requests a call back.
“I just couldn’t get to the phone before. I had a poddy [unbranded] lamb who demanded that she get fed right then, otherwise she’d be blaring at the window the whole time,” 49-year-old Kathy explains a short while later.
This lamb is not the only one of her stock desperate for food. There’s none available in the paddocks – not a skerrick. This leaves Kathy and her family to make a twice daily run to feed the 700 sheep and cows left on their property – almost half the number they used to have.
It’s a constant struggle to maintain the health of their stock when food is so scarce.
“We could probably sell off a few more of the older sheep,” explains Kathy about the economics of coping with drought. “If it rains again, we might have enough feed to get through, but if it doesn’t, well, then we need to sell off more of those. Otherwise we’re just not going to have enough feed.
“We had to sell our bull – he had another couple of years in him yet, but we had to sell him because we just couldn’t allow our cows to get [pregnant] and carry through to feeding a calf because they just weren’t going to be able to do so.”
The main produce of the Fragars’ farm is usually wheat, oats and barley, but it’s been two years since they had a crop to harvest. At the moment, Kathy’s husband and their 21-year-old son have travelled to Victoria to earn an income, while she and one of their twin daughters (aged 23) “hold the fort” at home.
And it looks like there won’t be another crop anytime soon. “We’re digging into the last of our resources. We’ve actually been feeding to our stock some of our seed wheat that we should be planting,” says Kathy.
“We went into the drought with hay sheds full. We were fine, you know, but we never expected that the drought would last this long, so that hay’s long gone.”
While Kathy admits that the drought has “hit hard” and they are going backwards financially, she adds, “farmers never do farming to get rich. They have a desire for working on the land and a desire to produce food for our nation.
“It’s our stewardship to look after the land and to provide what we need.”
A seasoned farmer, she adds, pragmatically: “We live in the land of droughts and flooding rain. It’s to be expected that there’s going to be very lean times, and that there will be again times where we see God’s blessing and we see his rain.”
When asked how she can stay so positive, Kathy – a member of Nyngan Baptist Fellowship – thanks her Christian faith. Without it, she “would have given up long ago”.
“We wouldn’t be getting through the things that we get through without God to guide us and lead us – trusting that he is going to work good out of all circumstances, even the tricky times and trials.
“It will rain again – God will send the rain one day and he’s providing for us through the drought.”
Kathy is very grateful for the recent small shower of rain that brought a short reprieve from the daily dust-storms. It even resulted in a few tiny green patches in the paddocks.
“We’ve also been very, very thankful for some lovely, gracious charities for donating hay and other stock feed here and there,” she adds.
“Pray for opportunities to be able to speak to people about how we’re getting through it and what God means to us.” – Kathy Fragar
But the blessings flow in both directions. The Fragars host a Scripture Union agriculture camp for young people on their property once a year.
“It’s great to have some of the kids from the [local community] here and build those connections as an outreach into the community and a way of having a ministry here. It’s a blessing to be able to share what we’ve got that can be used for God’s glory.”
When asked what Eternity readers can be praying, for Kathy and others on the land, she answers: “Our biggest prayer at the moment is always rain, so pray for rain.”
“But also pray for opportunities for us to be an encouragement to our neighbours, to be an example to those around us who are facing the same things.
“Pray that we can be that shining light to them and also a listening ear for them.
“Pray for opportunities to be able to speak to people about how we’re getting through it and what God means to us – how we can get through and seem to have a smile on our face …
“Pray for the encouragement of other Christians here too, because in small communities and small churches it can sometimes be easy to feel overwhelmed.
“There’s such a huge task out here and so few to do those tasks. So, pray for the strength and resources to help them be an example of the cross.”
If you’d like to bless Kathy and other women in central NSW, consider buying them a ticket to OneDay, the women’s Christian conference in Orange next May.
Read Eternity’s story on the OneDay Christmas fundraiser – “The best Christmas gift you can give a woman on the land” – or visit onedaycwc.org.au/donations.