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“No one said no”: one Tooborac farmer’s hay drive gets immediate results

By Daneka Hill

When the SOS call for hay went out, local farmers answered.

It took just two days for farmers in Tooborac, Derrinal and Glenaroua to fill a semi-trailer with hay and send it to freshly burnt out areas of NSW.

Local farmer Tom Dempster was the starting point.

After battling fires alongside his partner’s family on Tooma Station in Eastern Riverina and witnessing the devastation, he returned home and started calling everyone he knew.

Tom said not one person declined to give hay.

In the end 11 farmers gathered together 88 bales of hay, valued at more than $100 each.

“Some could only spare two bales but others donated a lot more,” Tom said.

“I told them (at Tooma Station) to keep the hay if they needed it or send it on.”

In the end, Tooma Station, which had all its cattle moved off-farm before the fires began, ended up sending the hay to a neighbour.

The 33-year-old farmer who received the donated hay lost everything except his house and a small herd of cattle to the fires.

“He was just starting out, having a crack at cattle farming with his young family,” Tom said.

“He was completely burnt out, he lost fences, yards, land, everything.

“He was very thankful; he said if it ever came time that we needed hay down here he would return the favour.”

It was not only farmers who generously gave while in the grips of their own drought, but school children and truck drivers as well.

In total two semi-trailers and one tray truck were used to shift the hay north.

All trucks were donated and driven by their owners: Mick Whitty from Kilmore, Stewart Ollet from Tooborac and John Lucas from Ballarat.

The fuel was partially covered by community members such as 15-year-old Mannon Johnston, who contributed $50.

The first semi-trailer made the five-hour trip north on January 6, the next truckload left three days later, followed soon after by the final semi-trailer.