Recent data from the NSW Department of Primary Industries shows that dry weather has left crops critically dependent on future rainfall, and in elevated areas, the cold conditions have slowed down production of the winter produce.
Jack Hill, owner of Hill Potato Family Farming, in Robertson, said that his biggest threat to his crops is the late frosts which is always worse in dry weather. As a family business, the Hill Potato farm is on the end of the chain in a supply and demand market. Poor conditions and escalation in costs have meant that profit has gone backwards in the last two years.
"We've got irrigation, but it's very expensive to use, we just have it as a back-up... but in the last two years, well, I've been growing potatoes since 1962, so that's over 50 years, and the last two years have been the most difficult...[if there's no rain] we could probably stand another year, or possibly two, and by that time we'd really have our back to the wall. You're a gambler, if you're a farmer." He said.
Kirsty Hambrooke, owner of the Terrewah Organic Farm in Kangaroo Valley, said that these conditions are the "new normal" for Australian agriculture. While she is remaining optimistic, she believes that climate change has irreversibly changed the agricultural landscape.
"It's difficult to get tied up with long range forecasts and outlooks from the Bureau [of Meteorology], because it's too utterly depressing...trying to get a good pasture crop has been very difficult over the last few years, with very dry weather. So, we haven't gotten to a point where our property can withstand drought." She said.
Ms. Hambrooke also said that community support is the best protection against hard times.
In a previous year, Hambrooke's neighbors offered her their own private water supplies, to help her farm get through the tough weather.
"Our community's fantastic." She said. "There's always someone willing to teach you something, show you something, and they're very generous with their time and with their knowledge...there's a lot of help out there."
With spring around the corner, and 97.6% of the state in drought, Farmers are encouraged to reach out for support.
For more information on Drought Assistance for Farmers, please click on the following: