South West author and speaker, Les Feast, loves to spin a yarn.
His rugged baritone, heavily peppered with Aussie slang, emanates a boyish charm and love for humanity, as he relates his life story and passions over the phone.
One of three brothers from a rural-like Armadale, Feast's life seems full of profound, often other-worldly adventures - and more than a touch of tragedy - from the breakup of his 12 year marriage, to losing it all in commercial trade.
"I was married for 12 years and had two kids from that relationship. I lost all of my money, all my super," says Feast, who lives in Mandurah.
When he was spurred to do some "spiritual repair work" including a tumultous trip to India's Ashrams, he credits his kids for always being there for him.
"They are the love of my life." he says. "They were my rock. Being there and loving me no matter what."
He now credits all this hardship to developing his compassion in the everyday and in his working life.
With almost 20 years touring the regions, Feast's strong love is certainly not amiss for Aussie farmers and their plight. Helping to be part of the solution to their mental health is where his passion lies now.
He advocates for compassionate conversation between the farming industry, governments, environmental groups, and media outlets to help everybody's long term material and mental health.
"We all want a better world. It's going to take "people power" to make a better world. We all have needs. Whether you like someone or not, they're just like us - they just have different needs."
He tracks this soft spot for farmer's mental health to having grown up a bushie, and strong ties with his grandfather, a man who saw first hand the needs of workers and regional communities .
"I was a simple country boy running around barefoot everywhere. It was cruisey, wholesome. Mum and Dad both served in World War 2. Dad was on the Kokoda Trail."
He'd spend lots of time in these communities with his grandfather where he noticed "Pop" was well-loved by all.
A highly affectionate man, his friends would often yell "Pucker up! Pop's here!" when he came to watch Les' footy games as a boy.
"Pop would take my older brother and I out to all the dams being built in WA when I was 10 or 11."
"He was real. What I really got was that he had a lot of love. He showed me how to be real."
He also spoke of a "gift" his grandfather had.
The boys (working on the dams and in the communities) would line up and buy Pop a beer for some personal guidance. When he had a skinful of free drinks, he would simply then go home.
"He didn't understand his gift and thought he was going crazy. Mum found him one day trying to hang himself."
All this has led Feast to back farmer's mettle with vehemence.
His boyish tones turn to a harsh dryness as he connects the characters from his latest books to his Pop's life, his own, and the incessant challenges Aussie farmers face.
"[Farmers] are people who would jump at anything for their community." says Feast.
"I've never met people who work as hard as they do. They know if they don't put the work in, they don't get the result. After seeding, they've got to hope for the rain to come in. They're constantly looking at ways to make things better. And there's always an emergency, a fire, frost, storms, sheep injured or sick. And just when they send off their harvest - the market drops!" he says.
He fervently recounts stories about about their mental struggles where gruelling work hours, and the blacksheep-type barrage aimed at the industry often leads them to "top themselves".
"They don't create the market. The world demands that food. They're in a very difficult place. They've got a strong obligation to their families and the land itself. They're more concerned than anybody about the land. They've had farmland for 100 years. These are generational farmers. The land has got to be able to produce a good crop so that their children's children are able to continue to prosper. They can't do that if the land is degraded." he says.
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