Life before the Black Summer bushfires was busy for Rodney and Rebecca McErvale, who are merino wool growers in Victoria and owners of local business Leroymac Designs.
According to Rodney and Rebecca, they are the only company in Australia using the wool off their very own sheep to make quality machine-knitted and machine-washable pure Australian merino blankets and garments.
Rodney has also been a volunteer fire fighter with the Victorian Country Fire Authority for 30 years. On 20 December 2019, the wind changed direction, sparing the town of Lexton in Victoria. But the couple’s property was hit hard. They lost 95 per cent of their main farm, along with 300 sheep and 27 kilometres of fencing. The fire was so intense that even eight months later nothing will grow on 10 per cent of their property.
The road to recovery has been gradual.
Rodney spoke highly of the help from BlazeAid. Around seven BlazeAid volunteers arrived five weeks after the bushfires to help with the fencing. Given two-thirds of Rodney and Rebecca’s farm is joined by road, they were, in Rodney’s words, “a God-send”.
Rural financial counsellors were also helpful, and informed the couple about their eligibility for the $75,000 Bushfire Recovery Grant for primary producers, funded through the Australian and Victorian governments. They used this grant for equipment hire, erosion control measures, fencing, and to buy a front-end loader to clean up his property. They also earmarked some of this money for pasture work later in the year.
Rodney and Rebecca also received a $3,000 grant from the Victorian Farmers Federation that they used to build a loading ramp in place of cattle yards that had been destroyed.
Their Leroymac Designs business also received support. As part of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s (DFAT’s) Bushfire Support and Products Purchasing Program, DFAT purchased woollen blankets to present as special gifts overseas.
Rebecca said she was grateful to DFAT for supporting their small business and providing them with an amazing opportunity to present their products to dignitaries around the world.
Rodney’s advice to others recovering from the bushfires was: “Don’t stress about the amount of work ahead of you. Everything will get done.”
Visit our primary producers support page for more information.