Nelson Bay Action Club's Farm to Coast program to provide a little relief to drought-stricken farmers

ACTION: Members of Nelson Bay Action Club including Gary Troon (left) and Craig Benjamin (second left).
ACTION: Members of Nelson Bay Action Club including Gary Troon (left) and Craig Benjamin (second left).

Following the success of Buy a Bale and other Rural Aid fundraisers, the Action Club of Nelson Bay has unearthed a novel new way of helping out the state’s drought-stricken farmers.

Club president Craig Benjamin, a former cattle and crop farmer now living in Anna Bay, said the idea blossomed after a conversation he had with Scone-based rural financial counsellor Angela Hayes.

“I and many of our club members understand how tough it is on the land in times of drought,” Mr Benjamin said.

“We could have tagged along with some of the many great fundraising efforts being undertaken throughout the Port, but after talking with Ms Hayes it occurred to us that what many farmers needed most was a break away from the farm.

“So we established the Farm to Coast project, whereby we host farming couples and families with a five-day holiday in Port Stephens, free of charge.”

Included in the offer is accommodation for four nights in a holiday unit/house; a dolphin watch cruise, a 4WD tour and vouchers for meals the visitors can use at a range of restaurants and cafes in the Bay.

Mr Benjamin admitted that the project would never have got off the ground without the support of businesses PRD Realty, Port Stephens 4WD Tours, Moonshadow Cruises, Essence Cafe, Village Grind, Rubi Blue, Crest, Bluewater Grill and Nelson Bay Bowling Club.

Angela Hayes from Rural Financial Counselling Service NSW.

Angela Hayes from Rural Financial Counselling Service NSW.

“All of these businesses have come on board as sponsors of the project,” he said.

In addition, the Muswellbrook Apex Club is providing free fuel vouchers for the travelling families.

Nelson Bay Action Club treasurer Gary Troon said the first farming couple had just returned home to Cassilis from a five-day break and the club was preparing to host a family of four from Bunnan from October 30.

“We have deliberately withheld the names of the farming families out of courtesy … many farmers are proud people and don’t like to be fussed over which is a decision we totally respect,” Mr Troon said.

“We will continue to work closely with the Scone financial counsellor who had firsthand knowledge of the farming families doing it tough whether that be financially or mentally.

“The feedback from farmers has been very positive. One comment we received from a farmer after he was informed of the program was ‘but nothing in life is free’.”

The Nelson Bay Action Club is a reincarnation of the former Apex Club, which closed its doors in 2010.

Membership is open to men and women aged 18 and over, and members raise money to support disadvantaged people and community groups.

Over the past eight years the club has given $25,000 to various groups and individuals including schools, cancer groups and Salvation Army winter warmer packs.

Anyone interested in becoming a member can contact the club through its Facebook page.