Offering helping hands in a time of need

Offering helping hands in a time of need

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Salmon Gums farmer and Farmers Across Borders president Sam Starcevich.

Salmon Gums farmer and Farmers Across Borders president Sam Starcevich.

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In honour of International Day of Rural Women on October 15, Farm Weekly celebrates the women who are making agriculture a better industry to work in for future generations - for women and men alike.

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AFTER enduring five consecutive tough seasons and feeling like she had hit rock bottom, Salmon Gums farmer Sam Starcevich turned her misfortunes into motivation to help other farmers.

In 2014 she co-founded the charity Farmers Across Borders (FAB) with her friend Anne Bell, which has organised many hay deliveries to farmers and pastoralists across Australia.

Ms Starcevich grew up on her family's dairy farm at Mundijong and went to Salmon Gums when she was 18-years-old to visit a friend for a holiday and never left because she met her now husband Darren.

Only after a couple of years together, in 1993 the pair became farmers overnight as Mr Starcevich's father suddenly died and they took on the farm.

"Darren and I are very much a partnership," Ms Starcevich said.

"We work as a team and communicate well with each other.

"We've always been open and honest with the kids (now adults Tim, Brody and Lochlan) when things were bad, because there's no point in hiding it."

Ms Starcevich has been no stranger to a tough year and in 2012 it came to a head.

In the few years prior to 2012, either the season brought drought or frost, or grain prices were low and fertiliser prices skyrocketed.

The couple couldn't catch a win.

"We had a couple of shocking years, like averaging about 200 kilograms a tonne on our cereals," she said.

"It just wouldn't rain, Darren was working away in the mining industry, the boys were at boarding school and it was just a horrible time.

"I had been on the ICPA (Isolated Children's Parents' Association) Federal council but I pulled out because I couldn't travel anymore.

"It was a hard time, everyone was unhappy and we didn't feel that there was an end to it in sight."

On top of this, they were feeling pressure from the bank.

"By the end of 2012 we were in a position when the bank wasn't going to give us any more money, they weren't foreclosing on us but they just couldn't fund us any more so we had to find alternative funding which we did and then thankfully 2013 was a good year.

"We were carried through 2013 by a local farm supplies business and if it hadn't been for him, I don't think we'd be farming now."

Being part of ICPA, Ms Starcevich was well aware of the devastating drought in the Eastern States, so when 2013 delivered a good season, she wanted to lend a hand, which led to FAB forming, with Ms Starcevich being the president.

In 2014 the charity did its first hay run, with 16 trucks convoying to Wudinna, South Australia.

As well as being an ear for drought-stricken farmers to talk to and feel heard, Ms Starcevich said FAB had also helped to raise awareness of just how widespread and debilitating drought was across Australia.

"When we talk to people from the city, often they have no idea that WA has been in drought and the impact that it has on people's livelihoods," she said.

While FAB does take time away from the farm, Ms Starcevich said the committee and volunteers all love the work and it can sometimes be a "good distraction to what's happening on the farm".

"We all feel a bit guilty with how much of a good time we have doing it and we meet so many great people," she said.

"So as much as we are helping people, we are getting something out of it because it's good for our health too.

"It's just what communities do, help people in their time of need."

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