A convoy of 34 trucks are well on their way to NSW’s Upper Hunter region loaded with hay valued at $114,000 to help farmers and their communities experiencing dry conditions and recovering from fires.
The trucks are travelling a total of 77,660km, with the 1,200 bales of premium hay set to directly assist 125 farmers and their families.
The rapid return to drought conditions this season, along with the recent bushfires in the Upper Hunter, caused many in the region to reach out to the Aussie Hay Runners organisation, requesting assistance.
So with the support of the NSW Rural Assistance Authority, Scott Stevens and the Heyfield Lions Club, Ray Akers of Gippsland Hay Relief, and Steve Carton of Denman Lions Club, Aussie Hay Runners (AHR) are heading to the Upper Hunter area for the first time.
This will be AHR’s 11th run, with hay donations coming from farms in Victoria and southern New South Wales, according to AHR’s founder Linda Widdup.
“It’s so dry up there,” says Linda. “I had people emailing me and it’s a heartbreak. I’m very lucky – I’m in the southwest of Victoria and we’re pretty drought proof there. We might get a little bit crispy on the grass, but not to the extent of the people doing it tough up in the Hunter.
“I’m just gobsmacked that we have such a great community of people, to have these 34 trucks loaded and on their way,” she says. “I’m getting goosebumps. I’m so proud of our volunteers and so thankful to all the help we’ve got from the RAA, [Gippsland] Hay Relief and the Lions Clubs.”
The trucks are heading to their meet-up point of Marulan NSW on Thursday 12 October. On Friday morning, the convoy of 34 trucks will set off via the Hume Highway travelling through Sydney via the M7 and M2 around 9:30am, onto the M1 with a rest stop at the Ampol Service Centre Wyong around 10:30am. They will continue up the M1 onto the Hunter Express Way around 11am to arrive in Merriwa early afternoon.
Friday night and Saturday morning, the hay-running volunteers and drivers will be looked after by Denman Lions Club who will provide dinner and breakfast. Saturday will be spent delivering to drop-off locations.
Since AHR’s beginnings four years ago, the organisation’s large group of volunteers has delivered a staggering number of donated bales to NSW farmers. To date, 267 trucks have driven 10 runs over 683,380km, delivering 9,856 bales to the value of $936,320 and assisting more than 1,000 farmers. This year, another five runs are on the calendar.
“It’s not a hand out – it’s a hand up,” says Linda. “You’ve just got absolutely awesome, generous people helping us make this happen. I’m a farmer’s daughter and I’m off the land, and it’s hard to see people struggle. A lot of our guys have big acreage farms, and they cut what they need for their customers and then they simply say ‘We’re going to cut a 50-acre paddock for you too. It puts a smile on their dial to be able to help, and actually a lot of the guys that do cut it also come along on the runs with us. They love to get out there. Farmer to farmer, it lifts a lot of spirits.”
Follow the convoy on AHR’s Facebook page