For most of us, road trips are what we do for fun and holidays but for the Burrumbuttock Hay Runners it’s a mission to help outback Queensland farmers.
Farming is a tough business, a real boom and bust roller coaster ride.
When we owned our printing business in the 1990’s we knew very well what that rollercoaster felt like.
With big fixed overheads like equipment leases, property rent and a couple dozen staff, the challenge for us was always to be able to complete enough work in the busy months to compensate for the quiet months when we would be going backwards.
Running a farm is the same situation but on a bigger scale - and instead of up and down months, it’s seasons and years. While all farmers expect high and low yield seasons, none can fully prepare for consecutive years of drought like they are experiencing in outback Queensland.
You simply cannot stash enough cash or resources away during the good times to get through years of prolonged drought.
The end result is that farming business’s die a slow death waiting for the rain without even knowing when it will come.
Tragically, some farmers have given up hope or simply run out of resources and either sold or walked away from their properties or worse, taken their own life.
This is a desperate situation.
Farmers can't control the weather. All they can do is work with it to the best of their ability.
To add to their pressures, the banks hover over the farms like vultures waiting for them to take their last breath, and even actively work to drive the farmers off their properties through engineering them into default like they did with Charlie Philpott of Carisbrooke station.
Meanwhile the politicians seem unable or unwilling to do anything that makes a real difference.
So what’s the solution?
Well personally I’d like to see the government step up and create a long term solution in conjunction with the banks and the agriculture industry that ‘drought proofs’ them altogether.
So that when droughts do hit, as they inevitably will again, farmers can keep the wheels turning until the rains return.
But that is a subject for another post.
Fortunately there are some great Australians that really do care and have gone above and beyond to lend a hand to the Queensland farmers.
Enter Brendan Farrell and the Burrumbuttock Hay Runners
One man who clearly understands the plight of Queensland farmers and has actually done something to help is Brendan Farrell.
Brendan and his dedicated team have completed 11 ‘hay runs’ from New South Wales to outback Queensland farmers desperate to keep their stock & business’s alive.
Over 20,000 huge bails of hay have been donated making a real difference to Queensland farmers who need to feed their stock and keep their businesses alive.
But as Burrumbuttock convoy manager, Mark Lavery, explained to the Brisbane Times they have no illusions about ‘solving the drought problem’.
"At the end of the day we can't solve the drought, it is just a goodwill thing that is done by a growing group of volunteers."
"Most of our theory behind the whole thing has been that if we can stop one farmer from selling his farm and walking away from it, or worse, we have done our job.
"We can't fix anything, all we can do is put them on the right frame of mind, even if it's only for a week but every little bit helps and at least we are trying to do something."
If that’s not the true Aussie spirit then I don’t know what is.
With the bank vultures hovering overhead and the government doing little or nothing to help, it comes down to folks like Brendan Farrell, Mark Lavery and the thousands of other volunteers and contributors to actually make a difference.
And what a difference they are making.
In January of this year, the Burrumbuttock Hay Runners delivered over 5000 bails of hay to desperate Queensland farmers and then they were back again on April 1st with another load.
And there is no end in site with Brendan and the team committed to keeping the hay coming for as long as it takes.
It takes special kinds of people to give so much of their own time and resources to their fellow Australians without asking anything in return.
But when you find yourself in outback Australia you discover that this spirit of generosity and helping each other out is actually pretty common and it makes you proud to be Australian.
So what can we do to help?
1. We can help pay for the fuel
All of the hay is donated by farmers and the truckies donate their time and their trucks to cart it north.
But the big out of pocket cost is fuel.
It costs approximately $2000 per truck for the diesel to make the return trip from Burrumbuttock in NSW to Aramac in QLD and back.
In order to keep their focus on actually delivering the hay, the Burrumbuttock Hay Runners have handed the fundraising over to the Sydney Rotary Club.
2. We can help Brendan buy a mini bus
Yesterday morning this video from Brendan popped up in my Facebook timeline:
Brendan is aiming to raise $5,500 to cover the cost of a 19 seater Coaster bus that they will use to drive the truckies out to the farms who are receiving the donated hay.
This will give the drivers the opportunity to meet the farmers and experience first hand the challenges they are facing.
$5,500 for a bus is not much so I reckon we can help them get it over the line.
Brendan and the entire Burrumbuttock Hay Runners team are doing an awesome job so let's see what we can do to help keep the hay moving.
The details of how make a donation are on the Burrumbuttock Hay Runners Facebook page here.