Batlow farmer Stephen (Steve) Bellchambers lost nearly everything including his home, all his sheds and all his equipment when the Dunns Road fire tore through his property earlier this year. Unable to get around his property and check his stock, he reached out to Total Ag Solutions in Tumut for support, who then kindly loaned him a Demo RTV.
On Thursday morning Mr Bellchambers returned the equipment, explaining what a help it had been while he waited for his insurance claims to come in.
“It’s just been terrific, we’ve been able to get all the stock in and also been able to check everything every day, because we have stock getting out fairly regularly. It’s just been really really handy, and it would have been really difficult without that,” he said.
“What [their help] means to me is that I’ve got somewhere I can come where I know that they’ve got the same values that I have. We look out and help whoever we can, whenever we can, and that’s what we do as Australians.”
Total Ag Solutions opened in Tumut early last year, and Caleb Lawman began working there in July. When Mr Lawman received Mr Bellchambers request for support, he didn’t have the authority to say yes straight away, so called his boss.
“I wasn’t sure how the phone call would go, [but] it was only a two minute phone call. He said ‘do whatever you can to help him out.’ So from there, we went ahead with it,” he said.
Since losing so much in the fires, Mr Bellchambers has been absolutely inundated with support from the community. Various individuals have called him to check in and give support, and some have given gifts. The Yass Recovery Centre provided a lot of support, as did the Tumut, Batlow and Tumbarumba Recovery Centres. ‘The Rock’ has been very generous to him and his family, and Ian at Woodburn, has even offered a managers house for them to live in for a few months.
Mr Bellchambers has been helping run a community hay depot at ‘The Rock’ property on Batlow Rd that has been able to provide emergency hay to farmers every day. Fergie’s Tackle has also chipped in with donations of money and hay, and Elders is giving out $500 vouchers to struggling farmers, with a follow-up phone call from a NSW Health counselor as part of the agreement.
The Batlow farmer has also received help from the Royals Rugby Club in Canberra, where his kids play, who organised various fundraising days, and the Tumut Bulls Rugby Football Club. Even strangers have approached him offering support, with one gentleman loaning him a caravan.
“It’s a wonderful support. I think that’s what helps get you through,” he said.
“You keep the momentum up by bouncing off each other and just checking on each other’s mental health. Everyone knows we’re all gonna have a down day, so it’s just a matter of keeping an eye on each other and having people rally around you which means you have that safety net.”