CFIG and Facey Group’s Farming After Fire workshops provide help for Wheatbelt farmers

Headshot of Shannon Verhagen
Corrigin shire president and farmer Des Hickey.
Camera IconCorrigin shire president and farmer Des Hickey. Credit: Shannon Verhagen/Countryman/Countryman

Grower groups in the fire-ravaged Wheatbelt teamed up last week to bring experts to the regions to help farmers move forward in the aftermath of February’s devastating blazes.

It comes after growers lost homes, livestock, shearing sheds, machinery and chemicals in two fast-moving blazes which tore through 60,000ha across the shires of Quairading, Bruce Rock, Corrigin, Kondinin, Narembeen, Narrogin and Wickepin after igniting on February 6.

Wickepin’s Facey Group and Corrigin Farm Improvement Group each held a Farming After Fire workshop on March 31 for affected growers, to assist them with on-farm decision making in the weeks and months ahead.

It comes as growers in the area prepare for seeding amid major topsoil erosion and work to regain ground cover and boost pasture to return agisted livestock back to farms for lambing.

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The sessions were opened by Narrogin Shire president Leigh Ballard and Corrigin Shire president Des Hickey, who provided an outlook of where each community was at.

Speaking at Corrigin Town Hall, Mr Hickey said the blaze — which burnt 24 per cent of the shire and destroyed the historic Bilbarin Hall — had “torn away at the heartstrings,” but the community had rallied to support each other.

“The fire has certainly changed the focus for a lot of people,” Mr Hickey said. “It’s certainly taken the fun out of life a little bit.

“But where there’s signs of adversity there’s also signs of recovery.”

Mr Hickey said while February 6 would be “etched in our memories for a long time,” the amount of kindness and willingness to help from locals and other communities — giving special mention to BlazeAid and Farmers Across Borders — had been amazing.

“We have received some incredibly generous offers for assistance,” he said.

“It will take time to recover businesses, productivity and the natural ecosystem, but just remember there is plenty of help.”

His speech was followed by presentations from Rabobank Narrogin’s Natalie Purdy and Phil Edkins, Elders Narrogin agronomist Helen Wyatt, DPIRD research scientist Glenn McDonald, Phil Barrett-Lennard of AgVivo and Andrew Ritchie of Icon Agriculture.

Dumbleyung grower and former shire president Gordon Davidson also shared his own story with the 2004 Kukerin bushfire and how he and the community worked through the aftermath.

“Learning from other growers who have experienced bushfires and bushfire recovery is invaluable,” CFIG executive officer Veronika Crouch said.

The half-day workshops were supported by Grains Research and Development Corporation, Meat and Livestock Australia, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development and the Wheatbelt Development Commission.

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