Happy campers bring an economic boost – and some rain

FARM FUN: Cameron Thwaite, 9, and Holly Starling, 10, watch cattle during their stay on a property near Bathurst. Photo: DAVID PORTER
FARM FUN: Cameron Thwaite, 9, and Holly Starling, 10, watch cattle during their stay on a property near Bathurst. Photo: DAVID PORTER

LIMEKILNS farmers Danial and Claire Beech were unsure if they would get any takers when they put two spots on their property up for short-term rent.

All they were offering were two campsites "on a lovely spot on the creek in the bush without any facilities" – and visitors had to bring everything, including their own water.

But the response, according to Mr Beech, has been "phenomenal" – including eight bookings over winter.

"They like it here because it is so quiet," he said.

"There's no-one about; they're sick of going to the national parks and to caravan parks where you have a thousand other Joe Blows, generators going, music blaring.

“You go down the back there and when the wind stops, you'll hear a pin drop. You'll hear the kangaroos bouncing through the bush of a night-time.”

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The Beeches rent the campsites on their 350-acre superfine merino and cattle property outside Bathurst on the YouCamp website, which matches campers with spots on private properties.

Mrs Beech said the income from the bookings – about $300 for eight people for three nights – doesn’t seem like much to outsiders, but it pays for about half a tonne of cattle pellets, which is enough to feed some cattle for about five weeks.

"Farmers don't necessarily want a hand-out," she said.

"I can't speak for everyone, but they're proud people, they work hard. This is a tangible way of doing something else that is bringing money on to the farm."

Mrs Beech runs the farm and three children while her husband works as a plumber to help keep the property going. 

Their latest YouCamp visitors were the Starling and Thwaite families from Hornsby in Sydney’s north, who stayed last weekend.

They brought 13 millimetres of rain with them (every drop gratefully received by the Beeches), as well as an offer to help in any way they could.

After hearing news reports of farmers who'd been without income for six years and urgently needed cash to buy feed for their stock, Lisa Thwaite emailed YouCamp asking to stay at a farm in driving distance from Sydney where the group of eight could camp, generate income for the property and provide practical help.

By mid-morning last Saturday, the Sydney families had tagged and recorded the weight of more than 40 Angus beef cattle, including a cow which was still trailing placenta from delivering a wobbly calf that morning.

Cattle had bucked and moaned, resisting vaccinations and an extra nutritional supplement to offset the poor-quality feed in the paddocks.

"There is a lot of grunt work," Jenny Starling said. She spent the morning recording each animal's weight and tag number.

"I can see why farmers complain about the grants having so much paperwork. They're out here doing this sort of work, and they don't have time to do paperwork on top of that.

“You think of your own home, there's always work, and then you multiply that on a farm with jobs like fencing, and raising children."

When the families go camping, devices are put away and the four children often play for hours in any creek, oblivious to the cold.

"It's a different form of live streaming," Mrs Thwaite said.

The co-founder of YouCamp, James Woodford, said rural people had been "locked out of the sharing economy".

Since starting the site in 2013, about 1000 private properties – including 600 that were active at any one time – had listed camping spots, shearing sheds and other places to stay, he said.

Mr Woodford said they had been surprised by the number of farms looking to supplement their incomes by offering camping spots – and the number of people wanting to camp on these properties.