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If it’s a Dog’s life, Get In Behind

If it’s a Dog’s life, Get In Behind

Urban New Zealanders have got in behind a Nationwide search for Farmers who could benefit from taking a break. Launched in time for the Agricultural Fieldays at Mystery Creek starting this week, ‘Look After Me’ (New Zealand’s Homestay Network) is calling for nominations to ‘look after’ rural workers who might feel isolated, overwhelmed or alone.

The competition has been spurred by sobering statistics around rural depression which indicate that suicide rates amongst New Zealand’s rural communities have been up to 67 per cent higher in rural areas compared to those living in towns and cities.

Is it a case of the good life gone bad? Many factors are thought to be at play including the changing character of rural communities. 42% of New Zealand’s rural population live in areas with low urban influence.

Brian and Sarah Mahoney, who have been farming in Waikato for over 25 years said “we’re feeling even more isolated than ever. We’re not getting together the way we used to. The schools closed, the sales yards moved to town and even the local watering hole’s gone.”

A tourism company seems an unlikely match to back New Zealand’s agricultural sector but ‘Look After Me’ Founder, Julia Charity says they have a growing number of Farmers who have diversified by offering Farmstays and B&Bs. “With the increase in self-drive Hobbit Tours, high profile events like the National Fieldays and cyclists wanting overnight accommodation close to New Zealand’s cycle trails, it makes sense that rural land-owners are looking at these options. It’s a win-win matching under-utilised accommodation with New Zealand’s growing tourism markets.”

Working the land is a high-stress business, often working in extreme climatic conditions with astute financial vigilance. “We’re well past the ‘she’ll be right mate’ attitude. It’s impossible to switch off,” says Brian. “Yeah it’s a dog’s life alright - we haven’t had a break for 15 years.”

“Townies really do care,” says Julia. “On one hand it’s been heart-breaking hearing nominations for women farming solo and families struggling through grief and on the other hand, we’ve been completely humbled by the generosity of our network which means we are now able to offer four get-a-ways retreats to deserving Farmers.” There are other prizes like copies of Footrot Flats books and movies.

Nominations for Farmers who deserve a break will be accepted until 30 June 2014. Entry and competition details can be found on Look After Me’s Blog and competition page. Farmers are also encouraged to visit the Fieldays. Look After Me still has plenty of accommodation options still available in Cambridge, Tamahere and Te Awamutu for last minute Fieldays visitors.



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