Affected by a drought with no end in sight, Cassandra McLaren created the One Day Closer to Rain (Drought) – Rural Cottage Crafts Facebook group, which aims to “remove the geographic barrier of face to face sales, and an opportunity to support those working hard to provide for their family”.
Cassandra explained to trueAU.NEWS the motivation behind setting up the group.
“Yeah, well our journey started back in May 2018 and we’re on a small property and things were a bit dry at home,” Cassandra said in the podcast above.
“And I started the One Day Closer to Rain (Drought) page, which was a support, well we didn’t know what it was going to be.
“It was just, there was a post on my own page, and I just thought that, after the response I got, that I would start a page and response to that was overwhelming.
“And that page now has 41,000 members and it’s just people, it’s farmers, it’s people that want to support farmers, it’s people from, you know, that are living overseas, like Aussies that are living overseas, they want to know what’s happening in our farming community.
“It’s a place to discuss things, ask for advice, but get support, offer support and just to let our farmers know that they’re not alone.
“So, that’s been an awesome community that’s been going since May 2018, and over the time people have wanted to know what they can do, how can they help.”
The Facebook group continues to grow in influence and outcomes.
Read the One Day Closer to Rain (Drought) – Rural Cottage Crafts TRANSCRIPT
Jodi M: In today’s podcast, we’re going to chat about something that’s in the minds and on the hearts of, well everyone really, especially in Australia, at the moment, and that’s the drought. The hard times that rural families are going through, not just the farmers, but the whole towns and communities. On the line today, we have Cassandra McLaren, who is a person behind the group, One Day Closer to Rain – Rural Cottage Craft.
Hi, Cassandra, how you going?
Cassandra: Good, thanks. How are you?
Jodi M: Good, thanks. Thanks for sparing a bit of time today. It sounds like you’re a bit busy.
Cassandra: Yep. There’s always something on.
Jodi M: Yep, something going on and you said just before too, you’ve got your Firey hat on today as well.
Cassandra: Yeah, I have gotten the Firey hat on today, just helping out in the Control Centre.
Jodi M: Yeah, that is amazing. Must be tiring.
Cassandra: So, no, well worthwhile and just glad to be able to support our firefighters on the ground.
Jodi M: Awesome. Now, you’re in a town of Merriwa, is that right?
Jodi M: Awesome. And so for the people that don’t know it, it’s kind of West of Muswellbrooke, Aberdeen, Scone. Is that right?
Cassandra: Yeah, that’s right. We like to say it’s in the middle of the Golden Triangle. So it’s sort of central, Maitland, Newcastle, Dubbo, Tamworth and we’re sort of in the middle. So-
Jodi M: Oh, that’s so cool. I know we’ve been through that town before when we’ve come back through, like from Mudgee and we’re coming through we’ll stop-off. It’s a great little town.
Cassandra: Yeah, it’s a gorgeous little town, just there on the highway, so, yeah.
Jodi M: Awesome. And how’s the feeling in the town at the moment. How’s everything going?
Cassandra: Look, it’s become a bit dry from the end of winter and we’re all, you know, got that hope and resilience that we’ll get through this, and that it’ll rain. But yeah, it’s not, it’s not quite its normal self weather-wise and that’s got impacts on the community, obviously.
Jodi M: Yeah, it does. Now is that what has spurred you on, to start this page?
Cassandra: Yeah, well our journey started back in May 2018 and we’re on a small property and things were a bit dry at home. And I started the One Day Closer to Rain (Drought) page, which was a support, well we didn’t know what it was going to be. It was just, there was a post on my own page, and I just thought that, after the response I got, that I would start a page and response to that was overwhelming. And that page now has 41,000 members and it’s just people, it farmers, it’s people that want to support farmers, it’s people from, you know, that are living overseas, like Aussies that are living overseas, they want to know what’s happening in our farming community. It’s a place to discuss things, ask for advice, but get support, offer support and just to let our farmers know that they’re not alone. So that’s been an awesome community that’s been going since May 2018, and over the time people have wanted to know what they can do, how can they help.
And we support four charities on the page. And so we’ve been pointing them to that and then it sort of evolved in, you know, we want to do more. We don’t just want to donate to those charities, like Need for Feed and Drought Angels, and what else can we do? And it was like, well visit rural towns and spend your money in local businesses and just those sorts of things. And then people still wanted more, and they still wanted more, and we didn’t want to make the main page, a Sales page, because then people’s stories would get lost. And some of those are heartbreaking, some of those incredibly supportive. And we just didn’t want to dilute those down with sales. So we resisted for a really long time and then I just went, “Do you know what? What if we start another page”, perhaps a little bit of madness, that was just over three weeks ago. It’s now a community of about 105,000 people. And we went with the rural cottage crafts. So, One Day Closer to Rain (Drought) – Rural Cottage Crafts.
We’ve got the drought in there because that’s what our pages are, because we had some other pages as well, which are about fodder. And also relocating animals and things like that. And so we’ve kept with that name. We’re not just targeting drought areas, though. So we’ve got rural cottage crafts, and the reason for that is the flow-on effect from the drought is huge. So it’s not just the farmer that it’s affected, it’s the people in the towns. It’s not just those in drought areas, because the water licences that aren’t available for the people in the South or in Northern Vic. All of their businesses are affected. And then, it’s not just the people that are on farms, it’s like, if you’ve got an irrigation business in, say Northern Vic., nobody’s buying irrigation because they’ve got no water. So they’re putting off jobs.
And so a lot of people don’t quite understand that this, the far-reaching effect is huge. But the biggest thing that we’re trying to do is increase spending directly to people, in these small towns, which will then flow-on to them being able to spend in their community. So, hoping to keep towns viable, hoping to give them enough support to see out the drought.
Jodi M: Absolutely. Yeah. And I, I did actually come across a post last week from a lady, who put up a picture of her local Newsagents guy, who’s the one, you know, sending all the parcels. So it’s actually, just a huge benefit to his business as well.
Cassandra: Yep. It’s, that’s it. It’s the flow-on effect is huge as to, but it’s also the person that sells the fabric, that helps make the quilts or the peg bags or, you know, it’s tough.
Jodi M: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Cassandra: Just far-reaching and it’s just so, I mean, realistically for the people that are living in those regional communities, the mental health benefits, on top of the practical help for them. Like the stories we’re hearing, “I was ready to give up”, “I didn’t know where to turn to”, “I’ve now paid my bills.” You know, all of those sorts of things. So that’s been wonderful. But the support that has been offered by Australia and beyond, is absolutely massive. As I said, the page is over 100,000 people. We know that we had sales that have gone to New Zealand, USA, France, the world is watching really, they want [crosstalk 00:06:21] support.
Jodi M: That’s amazing.
Cassandra: And it’s truly, truly amazing to see and we really, as much as the buyers could come on board, and everybody, like New South Wales Government has got a Buy Regional for Christmas campaign. But just everybody, if you just, if you’re looking for something that’s unique, it’s handmade, our page is a place for you to liaise directly with the person that has created that good. So if they’ve got a purple cheese grating board or something like that, you can say, “Can you do an orange one, on the wall?”
You know, like there’s all those sorts of options, just search the page for what you’re looking for and then just say, to these people, I’m really looking for… Like the other day somebody was after, a particular scrunchy, like dolphin material, you can ask the seller, “Can you do that?” So you can’t, you can’t do that with commercial products. It is what it is, and you can’t tweak it. But these goods are, a lot of them have been made and the sellers have had them, but they’re still making more and they can cater individual requests. So …
Jodi M: Yep. I’m loving it. I saw a post the other day from a little kid that was, I think about 10 years old and he was making football jersey fridge magnets and oh, it was so awesome. I loved it. I loved looking through it. And his mom had to get on, and I think it was only, maybe the next day or two later, and she’s going, “Oh, we’re so overwhelmed, with such an amazing amount of support, we’re going to just maybe pause the orders for a little while.” This poor kid for a bit of pocket money is really out of his depth now, making these fridge magnets and so many people were like, “Oh, this is my favourite team. Could you do this?” It’s still awesome. It’s really great to see.
Cassandra: We’ve got another young boy, I think he’s about 12, he’s making Reindeer food and Reindeer poo and he has been an inundated now and he’s set up his own page and just totally amazing. But the thing is, that’s why we need sellers, because the demand is absolutely huge, but there are multiple sellers of multiple things. So, come on at least, keep an eye on the page. We do suggest that. We also suggest that a lot of our sellers have got their own Facebook pages, don’t just, some of them have been bookmarking a post on our page. But when the sellers get overwhelmed they do pull out posts. So, if there is a particular seller, that you want to go back to, bookmark their page, and go back to them because they are …
Look the quality of the work is absolutely amazing and people want to snap it up and, and if you see it, you really need to act on that. But there’s so much going on. We’re doing hundreds and hundreds of post approvals a day, with new products and new items and new sellers.
Jodi M: Yeah, it is amazing to see, and the variety of products out there too. Amazing, so clever, people are just so clever, it’s amazing.
Cassandra: Yep. It is. And going back to the mental health side of it, for our farmers. So many of those, the first thing, drought sneaks up on you, and you get into the habit and you just, you know, feeding, in and out, doing a load of washing, if you get time. And you get into a rut and you stop doing the things you enjoy. Some of the things that you enjoy, are the things that keep you going and give you a bit of a spring in your step. And so for some of our farmer sellers, they weren’t giving themselves permission to do these things, because life is tough, and I need to support my husband or I need to do this. And it’s not something that, because I’m geographically isolated, that I can make much money out of, at the moment, so they weren’t doing these things.
But now, now it’s justified, now it is bringing an income. Whether that’s to buy food on the table, help pay for hay, whatever the, a tank of water, whatever, the kid’s school shoes, like we’ve seen, all these sorts of different reasons. They now have a reason to do that. And it’s a reason that actually makes them happy and gives them a reason to go on. And that’s a really positive thing. The people in city areas have been able to support them. So, but sellers do need to be from regional areas and by regional, that’s a really hard definition. But definitely not from our major cities. And, they go through an approval process, to get on our page, and it’s just amazing to see the support that people are willing to give our people.
And we do encourage them to tell a story. So you will see the story of the farmer’s wife that makes bath bombs or, all those things, or the child that needs to pay for his shoes because Mom and Dad, like their money is tied up, feeding the animals. So you will see stories like that on the page. But it is a way for these farmers to bring money in themselves. So often people go, “We want grants, we want whatever,” or “Aren’t you getting those grants or donations or whatever?” They don’t really want to ask for those. And this is empowered them, because it’s something they can do for themselves, to make a difference to their current circumstance.
Jodi M: Absolutely. And people do still find it hard to ask for help.
Cassandra: Yeah, very much so.
Jodi M: That’s the thing. Yeah. We were out at Stanthorpe on the weekend and Stanthorpe are doing it tough, with fires and drought and that sort of thing. Their water is just about out, I think until December, they’ve got water and … But a lot of farmers, a lot of rural properties are already out, they’re already dry. Now Stanthorpe, they are doing Wednesdays and Saturdays, a drought relief, they’re bringing water in and families can come and get water from them and, and they’ve got a Sausage Sizzle as well. But we were out there, having a look and a chat to these guys and, and they were saying, “It is hard.” Some farmers will come and they’ll sit in their car for an hour before they actually manage to get out of the car and come and say, “Hi.” Because, they are proud people, and it’s hard to ask for help.
Cassandra: Yep. And we’re Aussies, we’re used to giving help.
Jodi M: Yep, absolutely.
Cassandra: Like that’s the thing. Like, it doesn’t matter, whether it’s an accident, like a fire or a flood, a disaster or a death. Australians want to help. It’s just, it’s in our nature to be able to help make someone else’s life easier. So, when you’re used to being that person that offers that help to somebody else, it’s very hard to turn around and accept that offer of help-
Jodi M: Absolutely.
Cassandra: And they are proud people that are used to being able to provide for their family. So it’s a very different, not normal situation, for them.
Jodi M: That’s right. And, and this page, this group is giving them that hope and that ability back, to be able to do that for themselves.
Cassandra: Definitely. And that’s empowering because there’s been no change in the weather. If anything, it’s the outlook is not great, especially with summer still ahead of us. So to be able to go, “Yep, I’ve now got a way that I can supplement those feed bills”, or that I can keep making sure there’s food on the table, or provide some Christmas presents for my kids. And one of the things, we have seen a little bit of, is people want to give on this page to these people. But they want to earn it. They really do want to earn, it’s not a place for finding a farmer and donating something. They want to be able to earn that, and do something, and it’s something that they enjoy doing. And look, the stories we’ve heard are just, that bring tears to your eyes, just some of them have just been absolutely, just gorgeous, with the outpouring of love for people and able to provide
Jodi M: And I’ve felt that with this group, when you are reading through posts, you are absolutely feeling the love and support that everyone has for each other. It’s amazing. And I don’t know of any other group on Facebook, or whatever, that I’m a part of, that you get that same feeling.
Cassandra: Yeah. And we’ve fought hard for that. with our first page, the One Day Closer to Rain (Drought) page, what we now call the main page. It’s a community. It’s a family. It’s one of the reasons that the craft page has taken off so well, because we knew there was a demand for it. The people had been looking for it and the members supported it. The day, like we had sellers, sell-out on the night that we launched the page. And they had no fore-warning that we were launching the page. It was simply, “Hey guys, we’ve started this page.” And we started it with no sellers and no buyers and we had them immediately on the page and we had sell-outs. So it’s just a family that came together and it’s, yeah, it’s gone ballistic and-
Jodi M: It has.
Cassandra: It’s just awesome.
Jodi M: Yeah, it absolutely is. Just before we started chatting, I had the page open and I was looking at it and a lady had, just a couple of minutes before, posted a couple of hand-signed burlap bags, that have Christmas fabric linings in them. They’re gorgeous little bags. I think it’d been up for just a few minutes, and she already had so many comments on there. And as I’m looking at it, there’s more and more comments just popping up, popping up, popping up. And I’m thinking, “Oh, I don’t know if she knows what she’s in for but, go her.” I love it.
Cassandra: Yeah. And that’s one of the things that we’ve noticed, because today, obviously I’m in Fire Control today, so Kristen, my sister is an Admin on the page and she’s approving those posts today. But it’s one of the reasons that we are so strict that the goods can only be listed by the person that’s creating them. Because that gives them total control over the post, so they can put up a note to say that the orders are closed, they can turn off commenting, they can delete the post. If somebody else was to do that, and we’ve had people that intentionally want to help their neighbour or whatever else. But to put up, the 75 year-old neighbor’s woodwork, on a page such as ours, and not give him control of that, wouldn’t be appropriate because, it’s just not. So, it really is a page where you have to be the creator of the goods to share. So …
Jodi M: Yep, it’s awesome. It’s awesome. Now is there any, any message you want to get out there? Anything you want to tell the listeners today?
Cassandra: Yep, definitely, shop local business for Christmas and shop regional, if you can. And if you’re looking for something unique, come to our page, One Day Closer to Rain (Drought) -Rural Cottage Crafts and you will not be disappointed. It’s just there. And if you want to offer support and but just mental, verbal support to farmers or see what’s going on, then go to our One Day Closer to Rain (Drought) page.
Jodi M: Awesome. Cassandra McLaren, thank you so much for spending time with us today.
Cassandra: No worries. Thank you.