Welcome to Quirindi, the Liverpool Plains town that grows dreams for kids

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Twice a year the airport at Quirindi in northern NSW is a hive of activity, but there’s not a plane in sight.

Forty-two hectares of land beside the airstrip is leased by a community group to grow crops. Volunteers planting seeds of hope and nurturing the dreams of a new generation.

A bumper crop this year, the first in three years, thanks to drought, has added more than $80,000 dollars to the coffers of a charity group called Farming for Kids.

Volunteers bring in the 42-hectare sorghum crop at Quirindi airport.(

ABC News: Donal Shiel

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The group is made up of farmers and community members who volunteer time, machinery, grain and fertiliser to grow, harvest and sell crops.

The proceeds are spent on the welfare and education of the next generation, people like 18-year-old Casey Clarke, who received a $5,000 scholarship five years ago, which helped him start his own Limousin cattle stud.

A man in a hat leans through a fence reaching out to a cow
Casey Clarke checks on heifer Jill and her calf, the foundations of his Limousin cattle stud.(

ABC New England North West: Jennifer Ingall

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“I’d like to get the name back out there to show what these cattle are capable of and how they show up on the hook and on hoof,” said Mr Clarke.

“As of now, I’ve got three head of cattle. I’ve got one of my old original cows, which I bought off the school, and I’ve got her two calves and they’re doing really well.” 

Last year’s scholarship winner, Indiah Nean, has big dreams too.

A young female student smiles at a room full of people
Indiah Nean was the 2020 recipient of the Dream, Believe, Achieve scholarship, which she will use to pursue her dreams of studying medicine (

ABC New England North West: Jennifer Ingall

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“My dream is to move away from Quirindi and study a bachelor of medicine or paramedicine,” she said.

Rich farmland growing seeds of hope

Quirindi is in the Liverpool plains region, known as the food bowl of NSW, and the fertile black soils have helped Farming for Kids funnel more than $160,000 into scholarships and welfare programs since 2013.

A sorghum crop harvested in April yielded almost 300 tonnes and added $82,000 to the Farming For Kids coffers, which will be used to service existing scholarships and other community needs.

“The income is reserved for schools and any projects within the shire,” said co-founder Lindsay Maybury.

“Any accidents or family tragedies or illness, we come on board and offer some financial assistance.”

Building education foundations

Farming for Kids also funds music scholarships and in recent years also enabled a tiny Indigenous school to access vital allied health services.

Walhollow Public School has 21 students and, thanks to Farming For Kids, has been able to pay for speech therapy services through the charity Royal Far West.

“We access speech therapy from Sydney, and it comes straight into our classrooms every Tuesday,” said principal Skye Davis.

A boy and a girl sitting in front of a laptop
Students at Walhollow Public School taking part in a speech therapy class via Zoom(

ABC New England North West: Jennifer Ingall

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Sydney therapist Bronwyn Deacon “zooms in” via computer. She has other students around the state, and none live within 100 kilometres of her practice.

“There’s a lot of research that shows that telehealth speech therapy can be as effective as face-to-face, providing it’s done in an evidence-based way with support at the other end,” said Ms Deacon.

Ms Davis said the students were really benefiting.

“It’s been terrific. We’ve seen some real movement and the kids are engaged and each of the lessons are individualised,” she said.

At its heart what Farming for Kids is doing is pretty simple, but the effects are wide-reaching.

A man in a header with chaser bin visible through window
Lindsay Maybury drives the header harvesting the bumper sorghum crop.(

ABC News: Donal Shiel

)

“You do a little bit for your town which you’ve got to, and it brings people together and it’s a great feeling to do something for other people. We’d like to see more of it,” said Mr Maybury.

For the recipients of crop-sale proceeds, like Casey Clarke, it’s life-changing as he watches his cattle stud dream grow.

“Old Jill, she’s getting a bit of age on her now,  she’s been just a really nice heifer to learn on and get around the shows with and learn every aspect of breeding and going into your own stud,” he said.



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