Gascoyne farmers left overwhelmed by Perth fundraiser

Chefs for the Gascoyne

By Tyne McConnon ABC Rural 20 Apr 2015,

Farmers from Western Australia’s Gascoyne have been left overwhelmed by the support shown at a fundraising event for the cyclone-hit region.

The Chefs for the Gascoyne event saw about 30 chefs volunteer to cook with donated produce for a paying crowd in Perth.

The fundraiser raised more than it had hoped to with a $100,000 cheque from supermarket group, Farmer Jacks, pushing it right over its target of $60,000.

 

The funds will be used by the Gascoyne Food Council to help market the region’s produce when it grows back.

Almost five weeks ago, the region was ravaged by category three Tropical Cyclone Olwyn which decimated all crops in the region.

 

Managing director of Farmer Jacks supermarkets, Fred Fairthorne, said he wanted to help the region’s producers because they had had a rough few years.

“We had never seen a growing community suffer the adversity Carnarvon has suffered,” he said.

“Four years – a flood, a drought, a terrible locust plague and then a devastating cyclone.

 

“Every time all they do is get out, clean up and immediately replant. So I guess we were inspired by them. My team came to me and said, ‘I think we should do something for Carnarvon’.”

 

Mr Fairthorne, who grew up in a rural area, said the donation came to mind almost instantly as the cyclone hit.

“We just wanted to make sure we did our bit for them,” he said.

“We were concerned that maybe they are a small group, comparatively small. There’s probably less than 200 of them. They probably don’t have the political influence that perhaps they should.”

 

The event was organised by chefs from around the state. However, the idea was first coined by chef Peter Manifis on social media.

Chef Don Hancey, who was integral in setting up the event, said the support shown for the event was amazing.

“People felt a huge amount of compassion towards growers that had their crops devastated,” he said.

“The Royal Agricultural Show Society went out to their members asking for produce and we got an amazing array of produce, from Esperance, from Kununurra.”

Mr Hancey said support flowed in very quickly and very generously from all around Western Australia.

“It’s inspiring to think that so many people care about our farmers, because without our farmers we don’t have food on our plate.”

Gascoyne farmer Michael Nixon said he was overwhelmed by the support.

“I don’t think anyone would expect something like this,” he said.

“We have got the best guys in Perth that love food and cook it and some of the most generous, mainly small, businesses, that have donated their produce, their time, their effort. Everything’s donated.”

Despite the generosity displayed by companies and individuals so far, Mr Nixon said he still had no word on government disaster assistance.

It is understood the assistance now sits with the Prime Minister’s office which will have to approve it before financial support is given.