Queensland city families pitch in to bake sweet relief for drought-affected farmersBy Landline's Pip Courtney, Sunday March 23, 2014 - 14:01 EDT
Queensland's farmers have been finding some unexpectedly tasty drought relief in their mail boxes thanks to the generosity of city families.
In amongst the dreaded drought-related bills are gift-wrapped boxes of home-baked Anzac biscuits and fruit cakes.
Each parcel has a handwritten note from the person who cooked it.
The community baking drive was organised by Baked Relief, a direct giving network that uses Facebook and Twitter to mobilise people to bake when natural disasters hit.
Baked Relief was born during the 2011 Brisbane and Lockyer Valley floods, when Brisbane woman Danielle Crismani cooked a batch of muffins and dropped them off to an SES cleanup crew.
"I thought, 'well there's going to be lots of hungry tummies - I'll be hopeless at sandbagging so I'll bake'," Ms Crismani said.
The keen cook tweeted and posted to Facebook about it to her friends, and they passed it on to their friends.
Within days, news of Ms Crismani's act of kitchen kindness had inspired hundreds of Brisbane home cooks to 'bake and deliver'.
She says volunteers and flood victims could not believe it.
"The lady at the SES said 'where's all this coming from?'," Ms Crismani said.
"She said in all the decades she'd been volunteering for the SES she'd never seen this sort of response from the community.
"I knew then we could make a difference with a few cakes.
"I get that big things do matter, but small things matter too and just those little things can make someone feel better even if it's just for that day."
Drought hits; Baked Relief springs back into action
Baked Relief went into hibernation when the flood emergency was over, but two years later when the Australia Day floods hit Queensland it re-emerged.
Hundreds baked throughout the state.
In January, as the extent of the deepening drought in Western Queensland became apparent, a farmer from Quilpie who herself had baked for flood victims asked Baked Relief if it could come back to life again and help farmers battling the big dry.
The answer was yes and a call went out for food that would last - Anzac biscuits and fruit cakes.
"Back in 2011 it was on-ground crisis support. It was feeding people to nourish them because they needed to work," Ms Crismani said.
"This is different in that we're feeding the spirit of the farmer and the farmer's family to let them know we're thinking of them."
Organisers expected a few carloads, and were overwhelmed when over three tonnes arrived from over 500 volunteers.
'Baked with love by my family for yours'
"Every day I cry reading some of the responses and reading the notes that we sent out," Ms Crismani said.
"It really has shown me people do care and there are really wonderful people in the world that want to give."
To the farming families who read those notes, the message of support makes all the difference.
"Something like this doesn't break the drought and it doesn't fix financial worries but it actually makes us understand that we're a big community across Australia and other people do really care about us," Angus Emmott, a farmer from Stonehenge, said.
Stonehenge farmer Jim Nunn took home a fruit cake and a box of biscuits.
"It's a good feeling that they think of us, like who wants to know us out here?" he said.
"We're a long way away. I appreciate it I do."
Sally Hamlet delivered a carload of cooking from Warwick, the work of 30 cooks from ages seven to 70.
"The biscuits will be eaten the fruitcake will be eaten but we think that these cards and notes that people have sent will be something that they hang onto to remember that they're connected to the rest of Australia, and to the rest of Queensland," Ms Hamlet said.
The volunteers packing the care packages for distribution all over the state have been moved by the notes.
One note on a batch sent in by a girl guides group read: "Dear farming families we have these biscuits for you to show our appreciation for what you do. We're very thankful for the food that you provided for us. Girl guides wish you the best of luck in the oncoming weeks and years please accept this gift. Your caring girl guides."
"We've cried quite a few times about why in the city we respect our farming cousins it's really been lovely for us to see that," Ms Crismani said.
Transport companies have covered the cost of distribution and the Country Women's Association (CWA), Queensland Rural Regional Remote Women's network, and rural posties have delivered the parcels to farming families.
"All up it's cost us $60 to deliver three tonnes of food," Ms Crismani said.
Ms Crismani recently accompanied Baked Relief's final consignment to Longreach where there has been no significant rain for two years.
Farmers travelled into town to meet the public face of the organisation everyone in the bush is talking about.
Ms Crismani says Baked Relief's success is down to taking an old idea - baking for someone in need - and mixing it with a new ingredient: social media.
Muttaburra farmer Netta Robinson says the recipe is going down a treat in the bush.
"The thought and the passion people have put into cooking something and involving the whole family, talking to their children about people in the country, it's just got the whole conversation circulating, and I think it's beautiful. It's united a nation," Ms Robinson said.
© ABC 2014
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