Espasco baling initiative evolves

Corrina RidgwayThe West Australian
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Using the community's strengths in a working relationship is how Epasco Farms directly aids Condingup locals.

In a true twist on community crops, Epasco has employed the Condingup District Recreational Association to whisk away hay before harvest for the past 25 years.

The mutual agreement allows the property to save time and labour at the crucial pre-harvest phase.

Epasco Farms manager Rod Taylor, who has seen both the advent and continuity of the hay cart, supported it wholeheartedly.

Mr Taylor said the hectic event was hard work but good fun.

"It's a sight to behold," he said.

"There are trucks and loaders of all sorts of different shapes and sizes carting hay all over the place.

"It can look a little chaotic."

The initiative evolved after Epasco required a contractor to cart hay in a short time before harvest.

"We make 1500 to 2500 bales of hay a year for cattle and sheep … There is a large distance between paddocks to depots," Mr Taylor said.

"This way, the logistics are easier to manage and it's a win-win for the community."

The property has employed local sporting groups since 1985.

"The groups come in as a fundraiser … originally, the cricket and hockey teams were also involved but the clubs have since folded," Mr Taylor said.

The CDRA, along with the local Country Club, have taken the reins.

In one action-packed day, the entire season's hay cut is picked up, loaded, carted and stored at various on-farm depots.

A seasoned community hay cart co-ordinator oversees the process, and, in true rural fashion, the role has been passed down from generation to generation.

Current co-ordinator Mick Young pitched in to take over from his father Ted.

David Smith and Dion Lay - community stalwarts - also assist in the event's co-ordination.

"You couldn't believe what a busy day it is," Mr Taylor said.

"The cart is underway at 7am and all over before dark.

"It is all very well executed - there has never been an accident."

Communication is on a designated radio channel, and each volunteer has a specific task.

In the early years, small square bales made for good end-of-season training for the local football club when organising them into stacks.

Mr Taylor feels honoured the community groups continue to support the initiative.

"Epasco is about supporting the community, and the hay cart is the best way we can do that," he said.

The hay cart raises between $10,000 and $12,000 a year for the CDRA and Country Club.

It is integral to the survival of the outlying communities' associations and facilities. "The clubs do have expenses, and because they are low on numbers they have to make every dollar a winner," Mr Taylor said.

With a generational change causing a numbers issue, it is often a huge effort by a limited number of people.

"The cycle will come back around though," Mr Taylor said.

Bulk funds from the hay cart are vital to infrastructure projects and upkeep of facilities.

"The proceeds have gone towards a new synthetic bowling green, re-fencing and maintenance of tennis courts, and used in the purchase of machinery for the maintenance of the golf green," Mr Taylor said.

"Currently, there's talk of a new kitchen at the community centre, so proceeds of the hay cart will assist that realisation."

Epasco will continue to support the CDRA with the annual hay cart well into the future.

"It would be a great loss to us if it stopped … it would take us a month or more to complete ourselves and we would be disappointed if it wasn't done to how we were accustomed to," Mr Taylor said.

"Epasco sees itself as a large part of the community, and I personally look forward to the community involvement each year.

"The whole day is light-hearted - if you drop a bale you owe a carton. We have a barbecue and a get-together once it's finished, and there's always a lot of chatter."

One thing is certain - the community really shows the true application of making hay while the sun shines.

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