A tiny school in western New South Wales is eyeing the skies hoping for dry weather so it can harvest its first wheat crop.
Seven students from kindergarten to year six attend Hermidale Public School, more than 600 kilometres west of Sydney.
“Our motto is reach for the stars,” principal Skye Dedman said.
Each day the students swap their uniforms for work shirts and boots and spend part of their school day outside tending to the 85-hectare crop.
“We spent a lot of time in the paddock looking at how the seed would develop into the wheat, the processing, the harvest,” Ms Dedman said.
“There was a lot we wanted to teach them.”
Land donated by former student
Fifty years ago a young Craig Grimmond would have looked out the school window at a bare paddock that neighboured the school.
Now he owns the land and kindly donated it to the students for their project.
“I suppose it was very kind and generous of me,” he said.
“People said, ‘Why’d you donate that whole block to them?’
“But I rarely use it and it’s gonna be better for me in the long run because it’ll be cleaned up will save me a job down the track.”
Ms Dedman said the school community felt very lucky.
“We pinch ourselves to have this opportunity for the students,” she said.
“It’s remarkable what a community can achieve.
“We talk about collective change and that’s what is happening in Hermidale.”
From dust bowl to living classroom
The students’ crop is a reality that seemed almost impossible three years ago.
Ms Dedman said there were days students were forced to stay indoors because of huge dust storms.
“Our school and our community really felt the brunt of the drought,” she said.
“It was three very long, hard years.
“There were days when we couldn’t see our playground for dust.”
Since then the tiny community has dealt with a mouse plague, the pandemic and flooding.
“I remember we had to bring in water during the drought because we’d run out,” year six student Ollie Sheather said.
The students have the use of the land for three years.
The whole community has thrown its support behind the project, including farmer and parent Darren Mudford.
“We’ve sown wheat this year and it would be nice if we got two, two-and-a-half tonne to the hectare, which is not a bad effort,” he said.
“It’s much better than a cake sale.”
The student’s wheat crop is expected to raise up to $50,000.
The money will then be used to send the students on excursions around the country.
They are hoping to go to Newcastle later this year to see their wheat being loaded at the port.
“Being able to take them to Newcastle to see the grain being loaded, they’ll then see the whole cycle of from planting the seed to selling to the export market,” Ms Dedman said.
Eyeing the skies
Three years ago the people of Hermidale were praying for rain, but now they need a break in the weather to ensure Hermidale Public’s harvest can happen.
Mr Mudford’s daughter, Ruby Mudford, can’t wait to get started.
“It’s been amazing to have the whole community a part of our project and now we just can’t wait for harvest,” the sixth-grader said.
Her dad will take the rain over the dust any day of the week.
“Out here we don’t knock back rain,” he said.
“A wet harvest always beats no harvest.”