Gunnedah shire's farmers receives a huge hand-up

The Central Coast has banded together to help almost 30 drought-stricken farming families in the Gunnedah area.

Led by Janine Hooley of Follyfoot Farm Daycare, a team of volunteers travelled to Gunnedah on August 18 to deliver thousands of dollars worth of groceries, dog food, hay, horse feed and drinking water.

The group dropped into properties in the areas of Mullaley, Goolhi, Coonabarabran and Emerald Hill. 

“We literally drove up and down driveways to see if they would like assistance, so we did a lot of legwork on the day,” Ms Hooley said.

“We left everyone we spoke to with a care package. Sometimes $100 worth of groceries, sometimes $500 worth of groceries, depending on their need.

“We supported quite a few droving families up there… Some of them had teams of 10-15 dogs they need to feed every day, so I thought if we could take the burden off them having to provide so much dog food every day that would help.”

The emotion people showed was so raw.

Janine Hooley

The drought appeal was sparked by a Facebook post made by a Gunnedah woman in late July who wanted to express thanks for an anonymous donation of goods.

‘She put her three kids on the bus then she opened her mailbox and found this shoe box and she just sat down and cried,” Ms Hooley said.

“I was very struck by how humbled and appreciative she was. I contacted her straight away through and said, ‘I’d like to help your family’.

“What started out as helping one family soon steamrolled into me getting onto our local radio station and a man donated a truck and we rolled into town in a 45-foot semi trailer.”

Ms Hooley said she and her husband had worked on the land for 10 years and knew that “when times are down, you don’t tend to reach for much help”.

“I understand to make a decent income from farming is incredibly difficult. The odds are always stacked against you,” she said.

“You’re sort of battling the elements at every single turn.

“Not many of them ever put their hand up and say, ‘Hey it’s really hard out here’.”

Ms Hooley said at first the farmers they visited said, “We’re doing okay” but the longer they chatted, the more they shared about their situation.

“We spent anywhere from half an hour to an hour chatting to people, listening to their stories,” she said.

Ms Hooley said “the emotion people showed was so raw” when they turned up with the donations.

“We had one 80-year-old who was so shocked when we drove up his driveway,” she said.

“When I said goodbye and gave him a cuddle, he held on so tight… And when we released from our cuddle, he had tears in his eyes and he said, ‘You’re angels. I can’t believe you’re doing this for me’.”

I understand to make a decent income from farming is incredibly difficult. The odds are always stacked against you.

Janine Hooley

Ms Hooley said it was a “no-strings-attached” project.

“We’re not doing this out of pity, this is a way for us to say thank you and they were so grateful and so thankful,” she said.

She said it had also been a good way to “educate people on the coast about how tough it is”.

“A farmer we spoke to was going through $12,000 a week feeding his stock. It’s stuff like that that people from the Central Coast don’t understand,” she said.

“People down here don't get they don’t have town water out there. When the tank’s dry, the tank’s dry.

“They don’t think about where their milk and groceries and meat come from.”

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While there is little understanding of drought on the coast, Ms Hooley said there was no lack of generosity or offers of support, with community members not only donating items but also volunteering to pack them and deliver them to the truck.

“It’s been a huge community effort from down here,” she said.

“At first, I looked at the truck and said, ‘There’s no way we’ll be able to fill this’ but with donations from businesses, people in the town and the pre-school we were able to fill the truck.

“It steamrolled into something that was completely beyond my expectations.”

Ms Hooley isn’t going to rest on her laurels just yet. Her dedicated team is already organising a drought delivery run for Mudgee on September 22 and her own family is planning to offer their time to help a Gunnedah farming family with fencing and other farm jobs, which have fallen by the wayside as they focus on feeding stock. 

”The thought of going up and helping one family turned into almost 30 families and knowing we're going to back it up again is great,” Ms Hooley said.

If you received assistance as part of this drought delivery and would like to share your story, email vanessa.hohnke@fairfaxmedia.com.au or phone 6742 0455.

This story Central Coast comes to aid of Gunnedah’s farming families | The Big Dry first appeared on Namoi Valley Independent.

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