DRYING UP: Katrina Hobbs said the farm was just scraping by, due to grain costs and low water supplies.
DRYING UP: Katrina Hobbs said the farm was just scraping by, due to grain costs and low water supplies. Katrina Hobbs

'Don't give up on us': Call for help from struggling farm

DROUGHT is hard on any producer, but for Inglewood's biggest employer, Inglewood Organic, the looming threat of "day zero" is enough to keep Katrina Hobbs up at night.

Currently at 5 per cent of capacity, Inglewood's dam is expected to dry up by the end of the year, but even before that, water supply may be cut to agricultural businesses.

Tied with the exorbitant cost of organic feed in a drought, it is a crisis that has got the whole town, especially the poultry farm's 100 employees, on edge.

"It's a huge responsibility for a small family-owned company," managing director Mrs Hobbs said.

"People are worried, no doubt. You can see that there's a weight people are carrying, that uncertainty."

"It's not always easy to wake up and see dust again."

Already forking out a hefty $200,000 to invest in a water treatment plant so poultry stock didn't become sick from the bacteria and blue-green algae in the low dam levels, the farm now faces a new price tag in the form of organic feed costs.

"To buy grain is nearly impossible. Grain growers are also drought affected and our regulars have had failures in their crops or reduced yield and there's simply not enough around.

"Whether we run out of grain or water first keeps us up at night."

She said the farm was looking at the projected grain being 70 per cent dearer than in previous years.

That, in turn, would lead to a supermarket price increase, not that all stores were willing to put forward the extra cost of drought.

"No doubt retailers have reduced or de-ranged due to a price increase due to drought.

"It happens every day, it happened today.

"It's one of two things: retailers think it's too dear and they're not prepared to stock it, or the second thing is customers can no longer afford to buy it and we're forced to de-range our products."

That's why Mrs Hobbs was begging consumers to not give up on them yet.

Specifically, she wanted shoppers to understand that price hikes weren't a quick, or easy decision to make.

"There's a lot of focus on what we can do to help farmers, and you have to understand there's significant costs producing through a drought and that you can't give up on producers, " she said.

"Costs do go up but we need to survive through our time of need."

It was those not giving up yet, Mrs Hobbs said, that kept her hopeful about the farm's future.

"We've had customers that stuck by us and reached out when their local supply de-stocked," she said.

"In many cases, those who value us go looking for our product or request stockists to put us back into range."

Warwick organisations like Wickham Freight Lines were also doing their bit to lighten the hardships, she said.

"Wickhams know we're doing it tough and they initiated a review on freighting to do things more efficiently and save costs," Mrs Hobbs said.

"It's one story of beauty and hope and what can happen when things are tough.

"Drought can bring the human spirit out in us.

"A little bit of humanness and kindness go a long way. We just have to get through to the other side."