It was a major operation, meticulously planned and executed like clock work.
Drought relief aboard 12 semi trailers rolled in to Narrabri Showground on Thursday, and on Friday 420 farmers from across the North West arrived to pick up donations of stock feed supplements courtesy of the charity Rapid Relief Team.
More than 400 tonnes of the pelleted feed supplement in half tonne bulk bags was stacked and waiting for distribution by the RRT.
“It was fantastic,” one Spring Plains farmer said. “The feed is invaluable but the effort people make, and the fact they are actually thinking of us and wanting to help out so generously, is a big thing. People really do care.”
The first farmers began to arrive in utes, 4 wheel drives and trucks at 8am and six hours later the last load had been driven out the Showground gates.
They came from a 200 km radius across the North West, from Gunnedah, Coonabarabran, Moree and Walgett and many places in between.
The RRT is a stand alone charity, an arm of the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church, which has an ongoing program of support for drought stricken farmers.
Farmers had earlier registered online for the stock feed donations to be picked up at Narrabri.
The day was hot, and strong, gusty winds whipped up the dust as vehicles arrived, loaded up and departed for home properties.
A water tanker was in action throughout, laying the dust – and reminding people what wet roads look like.
The big operation proceeded smoothly with cheerful good spirits and friendliness from volunteers and recipients the order of the day in spite of the seriousness of the project.
Recipients expressed their appreciation for the donations and the work of the 35 strong volunteer RRT whose members came from centres across NSW and also Brisbane.
Farmers were impressed with the organisation of the event.
Pre-registered farmers had been issued with an ID number, and on arrival at the Showground were directed to a registration desk to confirm what they were picking up to help the loaders and then to the feed storage point where their vehicles were loaded by forklift, then proceeded to a check-out point and on to a ‘tie down’ area to secure their loads before setting off for home and hungry stock.
“The effort by the Rapid Relief Team is phenomenal,” said a farmer.
“They have taken time away from their families and their jobs to come here for us.
“We are so appreciative – we can’t say enough.”
For many drought feed recipients there was no urgency to return home. After vehicles were loaded, fresh coffee was waiting along with hamburgers prepared by RRT volunteers.
It was an opportunity to gather, have lunch and socialise.
“This was so important – to not only receive the material help, but to all come together, talk, catch up and share all our issues in this time of crisis which is so serious for so many,” said another farmer.
RRT managing director Ron Arkcoll said the ‘getting together’ was a vital part of the whole project, to help address the mental health and stress impacts of the drought
Operation Drought Relief has been active since 2018.
In September and October Operation Drought Relief delivered hundreds of tonnes of feed to Western NSW farmers at Tullamore, Nimagee and Condoblin.
“There is no ‘end date’ for the program,” said Mr Arkcoll.
“As we raise more funds and support we will continue to roll out these events.”
Mr Arkcoll said a meeting of his team on Monday morning had sketched out plans for a further four or possibly six distributions of assistance for farmers and graziers in NSW an SE Qld. drought areas in the future.