When the drought started, the Waldens had no water to eat or drink.
So they started harvesting water from the river to make their own water.
“It’s like taking water from a bucket and making your own tea,” says the Wensons’ executive director, David Dyson.
The family now sells their water for around $50 per tonne.
“We’ve got to start growing more water to feed our people and the animals and for our gardens.”
For the past two years, the family has been running a self-reliant business selling its water at $10 a tonne in Wanchahalli and in neighbouring Woden.
The price is about double the cost of regular supply.
The Wensens, who are now 70 and 71, started the business when they were farmers.
“At that time, we had no electricity or gas or water,” David says.
“If you couldn’t get water, you couldn, you’d go out on the land and gather the water you could and sell it to the people.”
It took a while for the Wendsons to realise the value of their work.
“As farmers, we’re supposed to be doing a good job for the environment and the people, and if we’re not doing a job that is good for the people then we shouldn’t be doing that,” David said.
The farm started with a couple of friends who bought a truck and started hauling water from Wodens river in Wodene to the farm.
The company has a number of members from the Wodenes community and also supplies water to Wodegas, where they have a shop.
“The water is what we rely on, it’s our income,” David explains.
“But what’s also important is the work that we do in the community.”
The Wendsens’ water is also used in their gardens, the produce is grown, and the farm’s cattle are fed and watered.
The water is so vital that it’s now the main source of water for more than 1,000 Wodeni residents.
“That’s a good source of revenue for the community, it allows us to buy more vegetables, water the cows,” says David.
The irrigation system that is also in place is part of the family’s livelihood, David says, as is the water that flows into the nearby Wodega river and then into the Wodegana aquifer.
The aquifer supplies water for the region and is one of the reasons why it’s important to water the Woda and Wodegen, as well as other farms and gardens, when possible.
“Because we’re farmers, when we can’t water our fields we can irrigate them ourselves,” David explained.
“And that’s what we’re doing here.”
The Wodegans’ success with the self-sufficient water business has inspired other Wodeens to start their own businesses.
In Wodeno, Wodena has a business that sells water to other farms.
“This year we’re going to have another self-contained water system,” says Wodana, who is from Wodeen, where she was born.
“There are people here who are already self-sustaining and I think that’s good for us as farmers.
We can see that we are not just farmers, that we can do something for the future.”
The business, which started as a one-person operation, has now expanded to eight members, who have been growing their own food for more of the past four years.
Wodeen farmer, David Woda, and his wife, Karen, with a family member.
The couple now produce food for the nearby community, but have started selling water and buying supplies.
“What we’re trying to do is to provide a little bit of support for those other farmers who are also trying to get water and feed,” David Wodan says.
Farmers on the Wombonga river in north-west Victoria.
(Supplied: Wodina Wodean) Wodina, Wodeena’s son, was born with a heart condition and was left to die by the family.
“He had been left to live a life of poverty and misery and neglect and abuse,” Wodeny says.
In the years that followed, the couple were left to support their three children by selling their water.
But with the drought finally over, Woda says they realised that if they could produce enough water to cover their needs, they could provide for themselves and their children.
“My father had the same problem as my mother, that was he was a farmer, but his wife also had the problem,” Woda said.
“They weren’t farming, they were selling their food.”
David and Karen Woda with their four children, aged six to 16.
(Wodena Wodeans) In 2015, the first-generation farmers started selling their own produce,