The show must go on.
It’s a phrase used countless times before, in theatre and in life. It’s the title of songs, and a phase used by Shakespeare himself. But could you action it? If the road was quite literally swept out from under your feet, could you continue down that path? It’s not a position that anyone personally wants to be in, but Caitlin Herbert of Gundamain Pastoral Co, and many others in the flooded town of Eugowra NSW found themselves in it late last year.
2022, KICKING GOALS
Caitlin Herbert is a 6th generation farmer and 3rd generation lot feeder. The feedlot on
Gundamain property was built when Caitlin was 5 years old and has kept her attention ever since.
After a brief stint in dentistry, Caitlin returned to the farm and has taken the feedlot industry with gusto.
In 2022 Caitlin graduated from ALFA MPM Program, and her greatest professional achievement for 2022, graduating with a Master of Science in Agriculture degree.
All huge professional achievements in one year.
When asked about the biggest difference in her generation of farmers to those past, the answer came quickly,
“Particularly now, the biggest thing is the ag tech sector, it’s just growing more and more every year. We implement new technology every 6-12 months. It’s largely due to the R&D that’s going on, there’s so much research that’s going into the feedlot sector.”
Her affinity for the farm meant that Caitlin and fiancé Ed had planned their wedding to be on the property on New Year’s Eve [December 31st], however, November 14th saw a turn of events that no one could have predicted. Eugowra NSW was hit by what has been described as an inland tsunami, extreme flash flooding with little to no warning. You can read more about the heartbreaking widespread devastation here
“My greatest professional achievement of 2022 has been completing my Masters of Science in Ag, and my greatest personal achievement was still being able to get married after the flood.”
ONCE IN A LIFETIME
On the morning of the floods Caitlin went to collect staff members who were unable to get to
work, due to the roads leading to their properties being washed away.
On return to the farm, Caitlin’s father, Andrew, was moving backgrounding cattle to higher ground and Caitlin’s fiancé at the time, Ed, was helping to move neighbour’s sheep from paddocks where water was up past their knees. While unusual, small floods have happened before, but they knew something was wrong when their livestock supervisor, Butch, alerted them to water behind the feedlot.
“[It was] surprising because the feedlot is at the top of a hill, and we had never had water come even close. Butch [livestock supervisor] jumped in a loader to get the cattle, and then he got bogged in the floods. We were trying to get him out, trying to get helicopters from in town, I kept calling 000, and I kept thinking why aren’t they coming? At this point I could see at least 6 helicopters in town, but we just couldn’t wait any longer.”
“Ed and a neighbour tried to get a boat out to Butch, while Dad got in another loader, and Butch managed to jump across and Dad got him out in the bucket. They got bogged, but far enough away that they could walk out. The helicopter turned up as they were walking out of the water. We found out afterwards over 150 people were recused by helicopter from town. That’s 1 in 5 people in Eugowra. It’s since been recognised as the largest rescue in NSW SES history.”
With the internet down, and no phone signal, 2-way radios were the only source of communication.
Unaware as to what was happening in town, Caitlin and Ed travelled via back roads into town where they saw the complete and utter devastation.
“They’re slowly rebuilding, over 200 houses were damaged and over 20 of these condemned. As a town everyone has had to grieve the loss of their homes, belongings and two lives to this extraordinary flood. On our farms, we’re replacing over 50kms of fencing. We lost some sheep and calves unfortunately.
We had no phone reception for 3 or 4 days, even after the floods. And I think that’s the biggest take out for us, communication is just so important in a disaster. We had 2-ways in vehicles, that was our only method of communication for 3 days and then there was no internet for over a week. As so many were taken by helicopter to Orange and couldn’t get back to Eugowra for a couple of days afterwards our radio channel was a method of communication for neighbours to check-in with each other and us. One neighbour couldn’t get to town and was radioing us to go in and make sure his wife and children had made it out safely.”
With their wedding a mere 6 weeks away, Caitlin and her family set to work clearing and rebuilding. They were wildly appreciative of still having their homes, as so many had lost it all, but there was a lot to do.
“There was no road to where we were having our wedding. With everything going on in town, it is still amazing that we managed to get it rebuilt, and still managed to get married on the farm. That was the most important thing to us when we were planning, that it was on our own farm. There is a lot of history there.”
“So, we rebuilt, and we told our guests beforehand, and in our speeches, that driving the road to the venue was like a livestock safari – because there were no fences – we had to warn everyone to drive slowly because there were just cows and sheep everywhere. There were rams in with lambs, lambs in with ewes, and cows in with sheep. But it was still the best day, despite everything that had happened. It didn’t need to be picture perfect.”
“On the day, we had to keep cows off the lawn where we were getting married. But at the end of the day, everything went smoothly. It was important that we touched on it at the time, but we didn’t let the floods define it.”
Find out more...