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22 January 2020
By SARAH SCULLY
While people across the country are preparing to celebrate what it means to be an Australian on Sunday, a group of Wimmera farmers are putting those values into practice.
Sam McGennisken and Daniel Mibus are again leading a Wimmera arm of the Burrumbuttock Hay Runners, an eye-catching not-for-profit organisation that delivers vital fodder to farmers in drought-stricken areas across the country.
A convoy of up to 40 trucks will leave a Green Lake staging area about 7.30am tomorrow and will arrive in Armidale, New South Wales, from Saturday.
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Mr McGennisken, who has baled hay and straw for the cause for the past four years, said the 15th Burrumbuttock Hay Run would again coincide with our national holiday.
“The hay run is always around Australia Day,” he said.
“You can’t get more Australian than trying to help people out.
“We always travel in a convoy and people are happy to see us on the road. Every community you pass through, the amount of people cheering you on is just amazing.”
While many Wimmera farmers have been enjoying a well-earned break after harvest, Mr McGennisken and Mr Mibus – along with family, neighbours and contractors – have been working around the clock to prepare for this year’s run.
“There’s been 18 of us working together to get everything done,” Mr McGennisken said.
“We’ve had a few neighbours lend a hand, dropping in for an hour or two now and then.
“Three local contractors have brought in round balers and a Melbourne company, PFG, donated two tractors and two balers to help us out.
“A lot of it has been night work – there hasn’t been a lot of sleep happening. We’ve been starting on the dark of night and working through until 10am to lunch time depending on the heat of the day. And then we’ve been trying to squeeze our own jobs in.
“But we’ve had some favourable days where we’ve been able to bale all day and get some rest at night, so that’s been good.”
Mr McGennisken said the group ended up with about 7000 bales of straw and 1000 bales of hay. He said about 150 truck loads would be delivered to Armidale, halfway between Sydney and Brisbane.
“There will be 15 trucks from Horsham itself and four from Hamilton are meeting us here, along with 10 to 15 trucks from Mt Gambier,” he said.
“We will be meeting another 40 trucks at St Arnaud and we will travel in our own convoy to Burrumbuttock, then on to Armidale.”
It will be all systems go at Green Lake today, with organisers loading additional trucks, which will make their own way to Burrumbuttock.
More than 500 farmers have applied for a hay allocation.
Mr McGennisken said a highlight of the run was the opportunity for on-farm drop-offs.
“Every truck gets to go to the farm and we get to meet the people we are helping,” he said.
“We can stay for a coffee or lunch, or go for a drive around and see how tough it is.
“We have done it tough here before but it’s not like it is up there. It’s definitely more emotional when you’re up there. It brings a tear to the eye to see communities doing it tough.”
Mr McGennisken said he was still in touch with a family he met on his first hay run to Cunnamulla in Queensland.
“We’re in contact on almost a weekly basis,” he said.
“It’s like we’ve known each other a hundred years and it’s only been three.”
Mr McGennisken said he looked forward to meeting farmers in the Armidale region and letting them know they had not been forgotten despite recent devastating bushfires dominating media attention.
“Up in Armidale they have been in drought for eight years now,” he said.
“Media attention over the drought has been on and off, so I think sometimes people forget that the drought is still happening up there.
“Yes, the fires have been bad and there are a lot of charity organisations doing great things, but when we go up to Armidale we’re giving those people peace of mind that we understand the drought is still on and we still care.”
Doing it tough
It was a desire to help people that sparked Mr McGennisken’s interest in joining the hay run in the first place.
“When you see how tough others are doing it, and you’re in a position to do something, then why wouldn’t you help them out?” he said.
“We’ve been really lucky here and we have excess straw and hay, so it’s the least we can do.
“The communities never forget what you’ve done for them, that’s for sure.”
Burrumbuttock Hay Runners are still calling for monetary donations for fuel.
“The more money we have in the Rotary Club of Sydney account, the more trucks we can send,” Mr McGennisken said.
“The truck drivers don’t get paid, they just get their fuel covered. The more money we have for fuel, the more people we can help.”
People can visit website hayrunners.com or search Burrumbuttock Hay Runners on Facebook for more information about donating and the run itself.
The entire January 22, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!