Change your region Benalla

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On a beautiful evening last week, a large group of friends gathered at Woody Point for a barbecue. Before us lay the contaminated murk of Moreton Bay, a water tank resting on the patch of sand where we’d usually throw sticks for the dogs.

As dark fell, our mate Tim called out, “Hey everyone, check out Brisbane!” and we strained to see the city that usually twinkles in the distance. But nothing was there. With the gathering cloud and the lack of lights in the CBD, Brisbane had disappeared.

Now, of course, the skyscrapers are back and the heroic recovery is well underway. It’s going to take months, probably years for Brisbane to bounce back, but as Anna Bligh pointed out, that’s what we do. We fight back, and life goes on. 

For dozens of rural communities wiped out by the floods, however, the lights are still out. This was obvious at the Redcliffe Jetty Markets on Sunday where one lone produce stall displayed piles of soggy eggplants and bruised cauliflower. Locals picked over the offerings, deciding to make do with sweet potato and an unidentified leafy green. When the stallholder pulled out a box of pale oranges, the crowd pounced on them, grabbing at the fruit as if the risk of scurvy was imminent.

In January, the market should be full to bursting with summer vegetables and juicy tomatoes so it was heartbreaking to see it so forlorn. As people arrived at the market, there were exclamations of disbelief. For others, it was the opposite reaction – as one woman said, “this really makes it hit home”.

To think of those farmers and retailers who show up at our market rain, hail or shine and what they’re going through right now is devastating. All those familiar faces from Moreton Bay, the Sunshine Coast and the Lockyer Valley have simply disappeared and we can only hope that someday soon they’ll be back.

It makes you think about all the other farmers whose livelihoods have literally been washed away. It makes you angry and sad. It makes you want to do something to help.

Jock Laurie, president of the National Farmers’ Federation says the most helpful thing we can do right now is be aware what the rural sector is going through. The extent of the damage to the food sector is still to be assessed as the floods spread across the nation. And it’s not just inundation that is causing shortages and price increases, but heavy rain, difficulty moving animals around and road closures that prevent produce from reaching retailers.

“Recognition is number one,” he says. “A lot of smaller towns have been wiped out and these communities are out there on their own. They don’t want to be forgotten.”

We can continue to be supportive, he adds, by buying what we can from local producers and accepting that it may not look as shiny or plump as we’re used to. In addition, realise that there may be less variety of fruit and veg, and be prepared to try something new if it becomes available.

If you want to take it one step further, south-east Queensland residents can contact Food Connect, which is organising Farming Bees to help farmers replant crops and fix fences. Visit or find them on Facebook.

Published: Jan 21, 2011 11:48am by johegerty.

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