Graham Cockerell is an ordinary man doing extraordinary things.
He is the man behind drought and disaster-relief organisation Need for Feed.
Since 2006, Need for Feed has been supporting communities and farmers in Victoria and more recently in the most drought-ravaged parts of NSW.
Mr Cockerell’s vision for the organisation was planted after watching fires destroy farming communities in East Gippsland in 2006.
‘‘I was watching the bushfires unfold that burnt out a fair part of East Gippsland from the High Country downwards and I realised how many farmers were affected and houses burnt down in little country towns,’’ Mr Cockerell said.
‘‘I was cutting hay at the time on our hobby farm and basically decided on the spur of the moment to give away a truck load of hay to the town of Cowwarr Toongabbie.’’
Once he got to Cowwarr Toongabbie, Mr Cockerell got talking to the local Lions Club and worked out that the hay he donated amounted to five small squares to each farmer in the town.
That experience helped transform Mr Cockerell into a ‘‘man on a mission’’.
Now Need for Feed is a project of Lions clubs around Australia.
Through his involvement with Lions clubs, Mr Cockerell has come to know Barooga Lions Club members Linda Ryder, Darren Laffan and David Stillard. He said they had all been immense with their time and support.
In fact, Ms Ryder and Mr Laffan act as Need for Feed’s northern Victorian representatives.
The organisation’s reach stems far and wide. It covers all of Victoria, southern NSW, the eastern side of South Australia and in the past year has even assisted dairy farmers in northern Tasmania.
Mr Cockerell said Need for Feed did between two and six hay runs a year, depending on demand and circumstances.
In the most recent fire season, Mr Cockerell estimated that almost 1000 bails of hay were donated for runs around the country.
Need for Feed has been busy supplying hay to the dairy farming region of south-west Victoria, which was enveloped by fire in March.
Mr Cockerell said two convoys of trucks had made the trip to the area, carrying 110 loads of hay in the process.