Bushfires NSW: Dairy farmers ‘at breaking point’ after farm burns down a second time

A young family has been devastated by a bushfire that destroyed their Coolagolite dairy farm, just three years after it was already damaged by the Black Summer fires.

Richelle and Byron Jackson, who are first-generation dairy farmers, operated their dairy farm for seven years, focusing on a regenerative business model that involves moving cattle around paddocks regularly and avoiding the use of chemicals.

During the Black Summer fires, they stayed on their farm as long as possible to protect their property and animals.

But the Coolagolite fire, which has consumed over 6000 hectares in the Bega Valley and destroyed four homes during the recent spate of hazardous weather, caught them off guard.

Roughly 220 hectares of their farm’s paddocks were scorched in the recent blaze, causing significant damage to feed stores, fencing, animal water supply and livestock.

They were tragically forced to euthanise around 50 sheep and multiple cows due to injuries from flames and smoke inhalation.

The Jacksons had recently finished rebuilding their farm from the 2020 damage before the latest disaster struck.

The couple say they are at “absolute breaking point” as they pick up the pieces again while deciding on how to move forward.

Neighbour Honey Atkinson tried to help the farmers, but the situation quickly deteriorated when her own home caught fire.

Ms Atkinson managed to save her home with the help of firefighters, but her neighbour’s farm suffered significant damage, except for the family home.

“Part of my house caught ablaze, so I had to quickly try and save it,” she said.

Ms Atkinson and Georgie Kite have launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds to help the Jackson family rebuild their farm for a second time.

In less than 24 hours, the fundraiser had already received $30,000 in donations.

The Jacksons are currently unsure whether they will choose to rebuild their farm once more, as they are emotionally and financially strained by the situation.

“We can’t thank the community enough,” Ms Atkinson said.

“I think this is just proof that we as a community have all become closer since Black Summer and know that we just need to help each other through these awful times.”

“They had really only just finished rebuilding their farm before this happened,” Ms Atkinson said.

“They are just devastated, they don’t want to talk to anyone, they just don’t know what they are going to do.”

The dairy farmers have told Ms Atkinson they were struggling to forge ahead.

“We are at an absolute breaking point, finding it difficult to envision how we can rebuild once more,” Mrs Jackson told Ms Atkinson.

“It came out of nowhere,” Ms Atkinson said. “The sky was red, it was windy, then all of a sudden there was just fire.

“They’re just broken,” she said. “This is beyond sad, it’s just awful, it’s just s**t, it’s just unfair.”

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