Byron Bay hobby farmer Ben Ferris stops in Port Stephens on charity run for farmers

RUN FERRIS RUN: Ben Ferris gets the thumbs up on his day off from Mantra Aqua general manager Leanne Jenkins during his Nelson Bay stop over.

RUN FERRIS RUN: Ben Ferris gets the thumbs up on his day off from Mantra Aqua general manager Leanne Jenkins during his Nelson Bay stop over.

Ben Ferris has run bare bummed, in his budgie smugglers and barefoot in the name of charity, now the Byron Bay hobby farmer-cum-ultramarathon runner is going above and beyond in his quest to raise funds.

Affectionately known as 'Ferris Gump', the 35-year-old has set out on a year-long, round-Australia run to raise money for drought stricken farmers - in his thongs while pushing a 70kg trolley and without support.

And while the self confessed "run-a-holic" who has previously raised funds for the Royal Flying Doctor Service and the Great Barrier Reef likes to display an eccentric persona, there is a more serious and humanitarian message behind the crazy antics.

The Examiner caught up with Ferris recently in Nelson Bay where he was enjoying a day of R&R courtesy of the Mantra Aqua resort, which had agreed to provide him free accommodation as its donation to the farmers.

The long-haired, bushy bearded marathoner had just completed 200km in his first week, having started from the Sydney Opera House, and had collected $1150. The 15,000km round-Australia trip is expected to take a year and Ferris hopes to collect $20,000 for 'Drought Angels'.

For Ferris, his crusade is more than a novelty run - he wants to raise awareness and money to support the farmers facing some of the worst drought conditions ever encountered.

"I have lived most of my life around the Byron shire helping on the family farm, so I have seen first hand the devastation this drought has had on our farmers who continue to struggle financially, mentally and emotionally," he said.

"Actually it's quite scary … it's not just the lack of water, food and feed for the cattle, there are a whole range of problems that families on the land continue to face."

Ben Ferris prepares to set off after his Nelson Bay stopover.

Ben Ferris prepares to set off after his Nelson Bay stopover.

Ferris is also hoping to educate younger generations about the importance of a healthy environment and during his stay in Port Stephens he visited Soldiers Point Public School to plant a lemon tree in the school gardens.

"The school has a great set up and I was able to talk to the students about sustainability and the importance of caring for the environment. The kids were very engaged and eager to learn."

Ferris said this would be by far his biggest endurance challenge, having previously covered the 3700km journey from Townsville to Darwin in 47 days.

"I am hoping to average between 70-80km running a day." And how many pair of thongs would he need? "About 50 … I could do with a thong sponsor."

Ferris is aware of his growing profile through social media and says his days pounding the roads and pavements would be spent thinking of how he could better support humanitarian causes while educating our young about the benefits of caring for the environment.

To donate to the Ferris cause, find him on his Facebook page: runferrisrun.

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