"I hate to see a small town die"
During the course of the Christmas break, whispers trickled around my home town of Nabiac that the Council had closed the saleyards, without mention to the local community. As the sale, which last month saw 700 head sold, seemed to inevitably been closed, the words of Troy Cassar-Daley beat through the land and hummed through the trees- "I hate to see a small town die".
For over 20 years, the cattle sales have been the glue that kept our little town together- a place where farmers smiled as they received top dollar for their cattle, wept as the drought set in and prices restricted their way of life, and where the community stood together and traded local news, different farming ideas and stories of their past. It is where the youth found inspiration, new farmers learnt the ropes and where weathered hands guided the stories of the past. Our little sale rustled the local community, lining the streets and filling the spirits of the town.
It sparked the creation of the farmers markets, allowed small businesses to develop and local musicians to play their hearts. It allowed families to come together, campdrafts to round the steers and 8 seconds of pride for a local bull rider. The yards were more than old nostalgic timber posts, they were a shoot to allow dreams come true and a salering to share pride.
Gone are the days that farmers whistled the cattle through the streets of our cities for market, when owning a farm supported an entire family or when our society connected with their friends and relatives to share the food they watched and heard grow. As the agricultural sector and society learnt new steps to the tune, our worlds slowly drifted apart.
Yet as the local community heard of the loss, social media connected us. Soon, our grassroots movement gained traction, speaking to media and coordinating petitions and actions. Less than 2 weeks later, we had success. The Council, stock agents and community developed a plan to reopen the yards, working together to preserve the nostalgia and history of the town.
Here are the 4 top tips I learnt to bring a community to action:
- The need for a central person to lead. While there were many people wanting to do a lot of things, it was critical that we had a leader who developed a plan, kept the community informed and was the central contact for all information.
- Develop media points early. We were lucky to use our connections to garner local and state media, but what was most important was that we kept to our key messages and shared them in our own ways. We also made sure they were positive, optimistic and clear. It was also important to have high quality photos for online and print media.
- Connect early and fast. Critical to our success was connecting on social media early and quickly to rally the whole town. In the course of a week, we had nearly 3 times the town's population sign our petition to save the yards.
- Never underestimate community power. In a town where the mail isn't delivered to our houses, our little town proved that it could rally together and win. It is also important to celebrate these victories and keep this spirit alive.
When a small town dies you lay its soul to rest. All the livin’ lovin’ workin’ will be gone now I guess. Well it’d break my grandad’s heart if he were still alive to see this cherished old small town die...
Fortunately, by coming together our small town will thrive for the future.