PREVIOUSLY thought to be unlikely bedfellows, shoestring travellers and understaffed farmers are now able to connect with each other for mutual benefits across Australia.
Free Range Camping, a new website grown out of the University of the Sunshine Coast's innovation centre, is acting as a virtual community board, allowing under-resourced farmers to offer campers a spot to sleep in exchange for helping hands.
Rob Catanla, who is currently caravanning around Australia with his family, said he was inspired to launch the website after an encounter with an elderly farmer near Margaret River a few years ago.
"We were desperately looking for a place to camp the night, and we stumbled across this farmer who told us we were welcome to camp on his property," Mr Catanla said.
"After a day or two, we noticed the fella needed help, his eyesight was failing, and to cut a long story short, we ended up staying there for over a month helping out.
"It was evident he appreciated the help, and we had a place to stay."
The nomadic father of two said his goal was to facilitate community connections and lend struggling farmers and small businesses a hand.
"When we looked into it, we noticed more farmers were in this plight," he said.
"Farmers are notoriously not good with putting their hands up and saying they need help, but if we've got this workforce through the website it might make that easier."
While travellers with specialised skill sets, such as mechanics or engineering, Mr Catanla said anyone was welcome to try their hand at farmwork, provided farmers were happy to take them on.
"Even just spending time and providing company to farmers dealing with drought and other things has made a huge difference," he said.
"Of course, some farmers can be a little reserved, but we've found once the initial meetings happen, they become lifelong friends."
Free Range Camping is currently developing an offline app, as well as an online camping store, and eventually plans to implement cost-free background checks for farmers wary of strangers on their properties.
To find out more, visit www.freerangecamping.com.au.
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