Struggling Lightning Ridge grazier makes millions selling dead organic lambs to yuppies

5 March, 2015. 12:05

ERROL PARKER | Editor-at-large | Contact

THE LATE SUMMER rain was widespread enough to prevent drought-affected areas getting even drier, except for Lighting Ridge.

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A NCC rainfall chart from last week shows that Lightning Ridge was the only community that missed out. SOURCE: NCC

It’s nothing new for the locals, who’ve grown accustom to going without water.

As many people around the country have come to learn over the years, if it doesn’t rain on farmland, things “go to shit” quite quickly.

In actual fact, it hasn’t rained at ‘The Ridge’ since 1995.

One local, who sat on his couch with a rifle across his lap, was nice enough to speak to The Advocate this morning.

“It hasn’t rained up here since Paul Keating was in power,” he said.

“All the sheep, cattle and cropping farmers were forced out soon after – it really hurt the town,”

“Who ever told you that there are black opals up here is a fucking crook,”

“Then all these Chinese dirt farmers came in and bought everything up real cheap and now it’s worth a fortune.”

It hasn't rained in Lightning Ridge since Paul Keating stole a traditional headdress from a PNG tribe. SOURCE: Australian Geographic
It hasn’t rained in Lightning Ridge since Paul Keating stole a traditional headdress from a PNG tribe. SOURCE: Australian Geographic

Ingeniously, the people of Lighting Ridge have bucked the devastating effects of the drought by selling what they have to the progressive inner-city élite.

Life long local, Ellis John Starkey of “Hope’s End” Angledool, thought he’d just try to sell the surplus dirt and dead sheep he had lying around.

“I got an email one night from this bloke down in Sydney after I put an ad in the paper,” he said.

“My son printed it out for me so I could read it under some good light in the kitchen,”

“Long story short, he actually wanted to buy my dead ‘organic’ sheep and ‘fair-trade’ dirt – I was blown away,”

“I hope he doesn’t actually think they’re organic – because you’d have a much chance finding a wife in a Thai brothel than you would an organic sheep in the Western Division,”

“There’s too much money coming in now. My accountant and I are struggling to hide it from the ATO,”

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Ellis John Starkey says he was “blown away” when he found a market for his dead sheep and dirt. SOURCE: Rhonda Starkey/The Ridge News

“First thing I did was call my mate across the highway and we spoke for hours about nothing.”

The man on the other end of the keyboard was Stephyn Jones, of chic grocery giant, ‘Jones the grocer’.

“Dead sheep, especially lambs, are rich with good bacteria and vitamins,” said Mr Jones.

“There’s so much waste out in ‘the bush’, something I was able to witness first-hand, after spending time in Outback Mudgee this year,”

“So much dirt and dead livestock ends up being eaten by crows and foxes – I think it should be on the dinner tables of restaurants around the world,”

A dead lamb in Jones The Grocer's Woollahra supermarket. PHOTO: RSPCA
A dead lamb in Jones The Grocer’s Woollahra supermarket. PHOTO: RSPCA

“We have free-trade and organic dead sheep in our stores now.”

Both dirt and dead sheep prices should sit just above 700 cents a kilogram (dressed) in 2015-16, and stay there out there to 2017-18, says the national commodities forecaster.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) forecasts few surprises for organic dirt and fair-trade dead sheep market in its latest outlook for agricultural commodities: prices are expected to stay strong on the back of reduced supply and solid export demand, underpinned by a low Australian dollar.

But Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) analyst Ben Thomas thinks even if the next two months don’t produce much more rain, dirt prices should stay on a floor well above those of the dark days (for producers) of 2013.

“We’re going to see the price of dirt start to rise once we convince people that it’s great to eat,”

“Marketing is working on it now – we plan on targeting people who own Audis and blokes who wear jewellery.”

Greens MP Adam Brandt has represented the federal seat of Melbourne since 2010 and has been a vocal environmentalist since finding himself at university.

“Now that drought-stricken farmers have found a way to get rich quickly, we can all move on to more important things like the environment,”  said Mr Brant.

“The only hurdle left is to make sure that these farmers aren’t mulesing these dead sheep before they sell them,”

“At least they’re not live exporting their sheep anymore.”