UP to 30 hay-laden trucks, utes and trailers provided an impressive spectacle for motorists in and around Sale on Saturday, as volunteer drivers for the Need for Feed fundraising drive arrived at the Port of Sale.
The convoy of semi-trailers filled with more than 600 bales of hay, along with dozens of support vehicles loaded up with fodder, calf pellets, dog food, care packages and hampers, arrived from Longwarry about 11.30am.
While icy winds and blustery conditions kept many visitors away, those determined to welcome the truckies and be part of the celebrations braved the cold.
The truckies were treated to a barbecue lunch courtesy of Lions club volunteers and the support of Wellington Shire Council, before heading inside to watch cheque presentations from local organisations, before moving off to east Gippsland for an overnight stop in Bruthen.
The fodder was made available through the Need for Feed Disaster Relief Project, initiated by the Lions Club of Pakenham.
Chief organiser Don Petty said the trucks would deposit their loads at 12 depots around Sale and Bairnsdale for local distribution to the more than 100 farmers who had applied online.
Mr Petty, himself a farmer, said the convoy was a sight to behold, with about 15 old club permit trucks part of the line-up.
“We’ve continued to bring hay down and we will continue to come — this won’t be the last time,” he said.
“Many people are unaware that farmers in east Gippsland and Wellington are doing it tough.
“We hope this public hay run helps shine some light on the situation in eastern Gippsland.”
The fodder delivered consisted of some donated hay, but was predominantly hay bought by Need for Feed at market value courtesy of financial donations made to the volunteer organisation.
Hampers and care packages were also made up of donated items, with, for example, some produce being included from a donor in Werribee.
Need for Feed founder Graham Cockerell was there to greet the crowd and the truckies, and thanked all local organisations who had donated money and produce to the effort.
“We’ve wanted to come back to this area since we were here on Australia Day, and we’re keep supporting farmers as long as we have to,” he said.
Wellington Shire mayor Caroline Crossley said the community spirit and generosity of volunteers and those involved in the fundraising project was heartening.
“We know farmers are doing it tough and there is no easy solution,” she said.
“But it is so fantastic to see people get involved to help.”
Need For Feed began in 2006,when Mr Cockerell donated and delivered one truck load of hay, which was distributed by Cowwarr Toongabbie Lions Club to farmers burnt out in the area.
He then returned to his home near Melbourne to round up others to help make a difference.
One his neighbours, Barry Medwin, who lost his own wife and daughter in the 1983 Ash Wednesday Fires, donated the next semi load of hay and another suggested a Bush Fire Benefit, which raised $23,000.
A local paper then published a story on the events entitled Need for Feed, and the rest is history.
Lions district coordinator Steve Boyce also praised the generosity of local donors, who included the Kath Foley Centre, Sale College, Sale RSL, Sporting Legends, Lakes Ukes and Voices, Lakes Entrance Amateur Dramatic Society, Lakes Entrance Girl Singers and Sale, Maffra, Briagolong and district, Rosedale and Stratford Lions clubs.