The Western Australian wheatbelt has been depleted of farmers. In 2000 there were about 10,000 grain growers. Now there are about 4,000. The catch cry has been "get big or get out". Many farmers have lost their farms seeking to do just that, when poor seasons, low prices, high cost of inputs or high interest rates (or all of these) have followed their expansion and the bank has insisted they sell up or be sold out.
The Wheatbelt Integrity Group is a group of farmers, financial advisors, businessmen and politicians who are looking to develop alternative farming finance avenues. They met at Parliament House on July 14th 2014 to discuss the way forward, hosted by Eyre MLA, Dr Graham Jacobs. One of the proposals under discussion was a Crowd Farming scheme being developed by Ryan Joyce.
A fund for the future of farming is being set up to take donations. Starting on September 11th 2014, farmer Nick Kelly is going to run solo 150km from Hopetoun to Bremer Bay through the Fitzgerald River National Park, a magnificent wilderness area of mountains running down to the sea. This run, named The Lou Athan Challenge, is aimed at raising awareness of the need to champion farming to ensure food security and build rural communities.