Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Rural folk rally round

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Rural communities are banding together to help Hawke’s Bay farmers dealing with drought and a feed shortage.
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Wairarapa farmers Daniel and Sophie Hansen are gathering feed in their region to send to their northern neighbours.

They hoope if farmers there have a bale or two of hay or balage they can do without then, despite it being a small amount individually, combined it could provide a real lifeline to Hawke’s Bay farmers.

Initially, the Hansens aimed to get every farmer on their road to either give or sell one or two bales to make a unit load but the idea has grown.

Now they have support from transport operators, stock agents and farm consultants and are discussing places where farmers can drop off feed.

Daniel says it’s not as though there’s a surplus of feed in Wairarapa but most farmers can probably spare a little bit.

“A bale or two is not likely to change their direction drastically. It won’t be the end of the world.”

They were recently almost in a similar position.

“We were staring down the barrel ourselves, only about 200mm of rain away from the same situation.”

To make sure everything runs smoothly Sophie and a small team have been working on logistics.

That has involved talking to the Rural Support Trust and Beef + Lamb people in Hawke’s Bay to make sure feed goes where it can make the biggest difference.

The plan is to set up a Facebook page in the next few days to help co-ordinate the feed drive. Farmers can email wairarapafeedrun@gmail.com.

The Hansens hope farmers in other regions will follow suit.

“When the chips are down it’s an easier battle when you know there’s people there willing to help,” Daniel says.

Also doing all she can to help is 19-year-old Poppy Renton, who set up the Hawke’s Bay Drought Facebook page, which attracted about 2400 members in its first week.

Renton, who lives on the family farm at Maraekakaho, west of Hastings, set the page up after talking to her mum about how the lockdown restrictions have meant under pressure farmers cannot talk to their friends face-to-face.

They decided to connect farmers and help them share experiences and advice about what they are doing to get through while also helping to facilitate feed sales.

She had no idea just how quickly the page would take off.

“It’s just crazy how popular it is. It shows it was definitely needed.”

It’s not just Hawke’s Bay farmers who are taking part with contributors from all over the country.

“The whole country is coming together to help and support each other. It’s exactly what we wanted.”

One of Renton’s aims when she set up the page was to possibly help save the life of someone who could not see a future.

“I’ve had three people tell me I’ve done that. It almost makes me want to cry.”

Though there is a national feed shortage, farmers who need it and transport operators are still moving it into Hawke’s Bay from wherever they can find it.

Matthew Brown from Reporoa company MB Haulage recently had six loads of hay and balage in Timaru and Christchurch ready to be trucked to Hawke’s Bay

His biggest challenge has not been finding sellers and buyers but finding loads to take south so he can bring the feed back north.

He’s been using his own truck and another belonging to a friend.

“It’s certainly keeping the trucks busy. I’ll keep going for as long as I can.”

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