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'Buy From The Bush' Market Boosting Drought-Stricken Rural Communities

Regional businesses say they're overwhelmed and inspired by the support from people in the city, as the devastating drought wears on across the country.

On Thursday, crowds of Christmas shoppers filled Sydney's Martin Place for the first 'Buy From The Bush' pop-up market, with retailers making their way to the big smoke to show off their wares.

The social media campaign started several months ago, to connect vendors from regional and rural Australia with customers outside their drought-ravaged communities.

Christmas shoppers flocked to the pop-up market in Sydney on Thursday. Image: 10 daily

The #buyfromthebush hashtag and official Instagram page, which showcases sellers across the country, quickly took off and now has 150,000 followers.

Founder Grace Brennan, from the NSW town of Warren, told 10 daily the response is "a nice affirmation that people care".

"It has been amazing. But I'm not shocked that people want to help and that they're enjoying connected with these bush makers and creators," she told 10 daily.

The campaign organised for 20 vendors from across the state to visit Sydney for a one-day sale on Thursday.

Brennan said they were "inundated" by keen city shoppers who wanted to support the regional businesses.

'Buy from the bush' founder Grace Brennan. Image: 10 daily

As her stall of pencil-drawn prints, cards and gift tags started to sell out around her, artist Cathy Hamilton said she was feeling "overwhelmed".

Today has blown me away. I can't believe how many people have turned out to support us in the bush.

Hamilton and her husband run a beef property between Coolac and Cootamundra, about four hours south of Sydney.

As the drought smothered farmers and communities across the country, the family managed to hang on -- until about three months ago.

"It has turned very bad. Our creeks stopped running. We have just unloaded our last 60 head of cattle (on Monday)," Hamilton told 10 daily.

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Here's Your Chance To 'Buy From The Bush' And Help Australia's Rural Communities

The online campaign encouraging shoppers to buy from communities battling drought is coming to Sydney.

Drought continues to impact 99.9 percent of NSW, with flow-on effects from farms to communities, according to the Department of Primary Industries drought maps.

As she sits and waits for rain, Hamilton draws. While she normally gets about three orders a week on her online store, the 'Buy From The Bush' campaign has skyrocketed her orders to about 60 a day.

Hamilton said the knock-on effects for her Cootamundra community have been "wonderful" and widespread. While she used to go into town once a week,  she'll now make the trip about four times.

"I'm spending $600 a day at the local post office, my printing is now being done in the local store, I'm buying more coffees and fuel," she said.

Artist Cathy Hamilton said she has been overwhelmed by the turnout in Martin Place. Image: 10 daily

Jane Robertson,  the owner of 'Millwoods Shoes', said the campaign has helped to build business outside the metropolitan cities.

Robertson runs a farm about 40km outside of the regional NSW city of Wagga Wagga. She said the drought has been a "major issue", with empty dams and exorbitant feed prices forcing the family to de-stock.

Robertson said running her business on the side "buys them time".

It's helping us to build our business so we can sit there and say, 'we're okay, it will rain eventually.'
Robertson is the owner of Wagga Wagga business Millwoods Shoes. Image: 10 daily

While much of the focus during the ongoing drought is rightly on farmers, Robertson said it's important to highlight that micro-economies and towns are also suffering.

"Anything we can do to get the economy going in these drought-affected areas is so important," she said.

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This weekend is meant to be Sydney Christmas tree grower Lynette Keneally's busiest time of the year. But instead, her plantation is blocked by fires so no one can pick them up.

Brothers Jock and Clancy Pattinson, from the NSW town of Young, said the campaign has helped to lift the mood in their town.

The duo told 10 daily their business -- 'Tents N Trees',  selling pop-up tents and stick Christmas trees -- went "gangbusters" once they were featured on the 'Buy from the Bush' Instagram page.

Before midday on Thursday, the pair had sold out of Christmas trees.

"We were selling stuff like crazy," Jock said.

"I think it's about banding together and knowing what's happening in the country. I think everyone is starting to get the gist of it now."

Brothers Jock and Clancy Pattinson sold out of Christmas trees on Thursday. Image: 10 daily

Hamilton said she believes the campaign could be the start of something "huge".

"From the way people are communicating with us, it seems like this is just the beginning and they will continue to look after everybody in the bush," she said.

"I don't think this will end."

Contact the author: ebrancatisano@networkten.com