How Australia’s cotton industry is a backbone of rural communities

Cotton grower Aaron Kiely is a man who wears many hats.

His day job sees him grow cotton and other broadacre crops on his family property in Emerald, Queensland. When he is not doing that, he is coaching a junior cricket team, helping on the local show committee, chaperoning his children to their rugby league, netball, and cricket games with his wife Carly, and supporting the local Cotton Growers’ Association.

This busy schedule is testament to Aaron’s passion for his community, and his desire to ensure its local residents and children have opportunities aplenty.

“A lot of other cotton farming families do exactly the same as that for their community,” Aaron said.

“It’s just a way to be a part of your community, get your family off the farm and get in there, have a laugh.

“They’re busy weeks, but that’s what farming families are about.”

In Emerald, school and sport are two major ways families connect.

“When cotton communities are thriving, there are families that come to town, come to our schools,” Aaron said.

“In a good year of cotton, you’re employing more people, which are families, and they are part of your community.”

Aaron said the reality of farming is there are good seasons, when water is plentiful, and bad seasons, when drought strikes. These seasonal fluctuations can determine the fortune of rural areas – particularly in towns where cotton is grown, as the industry significantly supports these communities.

“Australian cotton farms are 90 per cent family owned; and these communities are built with agronomists, there’s machinery dealers, there’s re-sellers, and they’re here for the long-term. They’re always going to be there, and hopefully they stick it out with the farmers,” Aaron said.

“You need to keep that community feel within our growers; you need to keep connecting growers with the community. We believe in supporting our local businesses and re-sellers. In a tough year or a good year, we need to support them.

“You’re investing in the community, in new machinery; with that machinery you’ve got local people, there’s more agronomists in town, the re-sellers employ more people, and these are young people that are part of your rugby union, rugby league clubs, they’re part of cricket.”

Aaron said with its innovative and community-focussed attitude, the cotton industry is highly valuable to rural Australia.

“To be a part of that, as a family in our industry, to show the people out of the city that we’re a huge part of our community and giving back in a great way and showcasing what we do – I couldn’t be prouder of our industry and the families that give back to the community.”

Aaron Kiely spoke to Cotton Australia’s ‘From The Field’ podcast. Listen to his interview below.