More changes for people in Bendigo to help drought-stricken farmers this weekend

The huge response to the Buy a Bale campaign for drought-stricken farmers is set to continue this weekend, with the Bendigo Farmers Market among those raising funds.

The national campaign is being run by Rural Aid and its CEO Charles Alder says the group has been flat out.

Such has been the deluge of Australians contacting the group offering help and donations that the Buy a Bale website has crashed twice in 10 days.

Work has gone into making sure that does not happen again, Mr Alder said.

“It (the website) is fairly bullet-proof now, I would hope,” he said.

So far, the group’s corporate partners have raised $6 million alone.

Local Bunnings were among those who held sausage sizzles on Friday, while Woolworths has agreed to donate fresh food profits made on Saturday.

Staff at local Bunnings helped raise funds for Buy a Bale on Friday. Picture: Glenn Daniels

Staff at local Bunnings helped raise funds for Buy a Bale on Friday. Picture: Glenn Daniels

Among others looking to do their bit this weekend is the Bendigo Farmers Market, which will urge visitors to buy a raffle ticket on Sunday.

Market organisers will match each ticket sold, with the lot to be donated.

Last weekend’s Castlemaine Farmers Market raised $812.

Mr Alder encouraged people to keep donating.

“Contributions will be significant because we will be able to keep delivering food vouchers to hundreds of farming families over the next week or two,” he said.

“That will be a significant boost to those familys’ bottom lines. They can go to Woolies and spend their $500 or so and pay some bills for a while.”

Mr Alder said the amount of hay his group is helping move across the country is now equal to that shifted five years ago, when the original Buy a Bale campaign helped drought-affected Queensland farmers.

Bales are currently coming from all corners of Australia, including Victoria.

However, Mr Alder said sourcing stock feed is becoming more of a challenge.

The other challenge the group is now facing is how to address the long term impact of farmers who are getting rid of their livestock.

“We will probably find vast areas of New South Wales without much animal stock at all,” he said.

“The challenge then becomes about how families sustain themselves even with the government’s Farm Household Allowance.

“That’s only $12,000 a year and farmers don’t have enough money to reinvest in their properties. The quality of fences will break down, the cattle yards will break down and general maintenance will fall.

“That’s one of the big issues we are looking at now – looking at some sort of rebuilding, infrastructure program for farmers.”