The impacts of COVID-19 highlight the vital role of farmers in the regional economy, and the challenges they face are not being overlooked in the wider pandemic response, says Taranaki Civil Defence Controller Craig Campbell-Smart.
“Taranaki is fortunate to have a productive and resilient rural community, well used to coping with whatever Mother Nature sends their way,” he says.
“However, we’re also well aware that COVID-19 brings previously unseen challenges and complications for our entire society and economy, and our rural workers are at greater risk of finding things tough right now.”
Farmers are facing immediate issues such as ensuring work practices are safe, hygienic and compliant with Level 4 pandemic alert requirements; dealing with more stock numbers than expected due to the closure or reduced capacity of saleyards and processing plants; and ensuring that arrangements with contractors can be carried out safely within isolation restrictions.
“The ability of our rural economy to lead New Zealand’s recovery relies on that community’s ability to get through this in one piece,” Craig says.
Top of the list is to be looking after the physical and mental health and well-being of yourself and those around you. There are good online tools to help, and the Rural Support Trust (0800 RURAL HELP) is also standing by to assist.
“While isolated or rural households are often very well equipped to deal with the lockdown in terms of supplies and physical resilience, it is critical that we do not underestimate the mental health pressures that the current situation is adding to life at the moment.”
“It is more important than ever that we keep talking to our neighbours, partners and family, and are open about the challenges we are facing, whether that’s personally and in a business sense. While we can’t do that in person right now, there’s no barrier to picking up the phone.”
Gypsy Day arrangements
Many in Taranaki may also be wondering how they’ll be able to move themselves and their herds to new farms in the coming weeks as the 1 June ‘Gypsy Day’ marks the start of a new dairy season. “Officials and sector representatives are working through potential issues around this, and advice will be going out to farmers and sharemilkers as soon as possible,” says Craig.
Resources, help and links for farmers
Keeping safe on dairy farms during COVID-19 (DairyNZ): www.bit.ly/dairy-hygiene(external link) - handy checklist to download and use.
COVID-19 FAQs for primary industries (MPI): www.bit.ly/MPI-FAQ(external link)
Stock feed planning service (MPI and sector groups): 0800 4DAIRYNZ (0800 4 324 7969 –diary); or 0800 BEEFLAMB (0800 233 352 – drystock).
Rural Support Trusts: 0800 RURAL HELP (0800 787 254) - can connect farming families with professionals including farming or business advice, suppliers, financial information, health, and counselling services.
Farmstrong: www.farmstrong.co.nz(external link) - nationwide wellbeing programme for the rural community.