Drought-stricken farmers turn to crafts to feed stock

Texas family create 'Made By A Farmer' business to feed stock during drought

Life & Style
Louise, Asha and Zaley Higgins with a decorated reindeer at the entrance of their Texas property, Runnymede.

Louise, Asha and Zaley Higgins with a decorated reindeer at the entrance of their Texas property, Runnymede.

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Forced to put their organic status on hold due to the drought, a Texas family have found an alternative source of income to truck in feed for their stock.

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As the drought continues to severely affect rural communities across Queensland, it has forced some families to look for alternative ways to source income.

Organic cattle and lamb producers, Louise and Jason Higgins and their two daughters live at Runnymede, Texas, and have had to put their organic status on hold in order to afford to truck in non-organic feed for their livestock on their 1214 hectare property.

Forced to provide some form of income as their breeders dwindled from 400 to 60, Louise Higgins created a small, handcrafted business called Made By A Farmer, to help with the bills.

Ms Higgins said her goal when she started was to buy a road train of hay with the proceeds, a goal she has since surpassed.

We are graziers and Made By A Farmer has been our life saver through the drought, enabling us to buy hay for our stock - Louise Higgins

"Often a farming family needs additional skills to supplement income. Making and crafting seems to go hand in hand - while giving us additional funds it also helps with stress and can help with isolation and feelings of depression.

"Five years ago I bought a scroll bender and I got my husband to bolt it to the floor. I had to teach myself how to use it and I made up four of these scroll platters with timber on the top.

"I procrastinated for about a day before I had the guts to put them online for sale; I put them on the Bush Christmas page and it went a bit bananas and I got orders for about 100 of them."

Ms Higgins handcrafts a number of items - from custom made platters to herbal bath teas and lip balms - and retails them via the Buy From The Bush and One Day Closer To Rain Facebook pages, as well as at this year's Bush Christmas event in Toowoomba.

Natural Leather Balm made from an old recipe that conditions leather.

Natural Leather Balm made from an old recipe that conditions leather.

Ms Higgins said dry conditions throughout 2020 prevented them from selling their stock as they were too poor to transport.

"The Made By A Farmer business has actually been supporting us; it's made good money this year," she said.

"Bush Christmas is an amazing platform to show Queenslanders just how incredible bush people are and what we can do," Louise Higgins said.

"Everyone in our community benefits from our business - local timber, locally purchased steel, local printing, local beeswax and even the local post office.

"The amount of messages I have received since starting Made By A Farmer has been heartwarming; I have done many a "happy farmer dance" since starting my business, which is in stark contrast to how I felt 12 months ago."

Bees Wax Farmers Friend lip balm is an old recipe that Ms Higgins said can be applied to dry skin, cuts, bites and abrasions.

Bees Wax Farmers Friend lip balm is an old recipe that Ms Higgins said can be applied to dry skin, cuts, bites and abrasions.

Ms Higgins has decided to shutdown over Christmas to spend time with her family.

"I've been going from before daylight until way after dark, every day. I really haven't had a couple of days off here and there, I've been working weekends and I'm pretty well exhausted," she said.

"I'll probably start back mid-February, but the orders are still coming in and I've had to say no, which I find really hard to do.

"I've actually physically run out of timber, which has helped because my timber supplier said that he's not getting me any more until next year."

The story Drought-stricken farmers turn to crafts to feed stock first appeared on Queensland Country Life.

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