Saturday, December 2, 2023

Last-minute decision sees cyclone-hit farmer bag regional title

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Cut off from town on his devastated farm, the regional heats were slipping down the list of priorities for one Pātoka farmer.
It was a close thing in every way for Patrick Crawshaw, who almost didn’t make it from his devastated Pātoka farm to the East Coast Young Farmer regional finals – and then won by less than a point.
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With no way out and his farm severely battered by Cyclone Gabrielle, the prospect of making it to the East Coast Young Farmer regional final appeared out of reach for Patrick Crawshaw.

He had a couple of contingency plans to get out to Dannevirke to take his place in the regional contest, but what lay ahead of him on his farm was too daunting to even contemplate going.        

The devastation was acute, with his farm’s recovery cost estimated at this stage to be in the vicinity of $200,000.

The hardest call Crawshaw and his wife Isabelle had made was the decision to move their two young daughters, Charlotte, three, and Millie, six months, away from the farm to safer surrounds.

“Grandma in Wellington came to the rescue for a couple of weeks,” Crawshaw said. 

“Looking back it was the hardest thing ever letting them go but it was the right decision for them and Charlotte got to go preschool with her cousin down there and she thought that was a great holiday. 

“It sure is a breath of fresh air having them back home now, though, but it’s taking a bit to settle in and find a routine. Not going to town every day for day care yet.”

Access was the key issue, with no way out to the closest towns of Napier and Hastings.

“We weren’t so bad on farm as many others, we were okay really compared to some. It’s access and infrastructure that are the biggest issues.

“Mid-February is when we usually have 140 cattle exit, so the logistics of getting them out is a bit tricky but not the end of the world.    

“It will be a year or two until we are back to an operation we are comfortable with. Meantime it’s making a plan we can cope with.”

Isabelle and Patrick Crawshaw. Patrick’s win earns him entry to the Grand Final in Timaru in July. 

Getting fences and access reinstated will be the initial cost, and Crawshaw is also facing a decrease in foreseeable income as he manages stock control going forward.

“That will be the bigger bite, more than the expense of fencing and repairing access.

“It’s the cumulative loss of grass production, and stock control accordingly, and we will have this and maybe next winter a bit understocked to ensure future capacity.

“At the moment we are having the driest spell in about 12 months with moisture content the driest since October so that is playing in our favour and giving us a chance to make some headway.

“We have a lot of help coming in this next couple of weeks.”  

Crawshaw grew up on the family farm at Nuhaka, Hawke’s Bay, where his parents run the Kenhardt Angus stud.

He moved to take up his own beef and lamb enterprise at Patoka in 2018, the year he and Isabelle married and also the year of his first attempt at the FMG Young Farmer of the Year. 

Since completing his Bachelor of Commerce (Agriculture) at Lincoln University, he has been immersed in the beef and lamb industry.

He is involved in the Informing New Zealand Beef (INZB) programme and is a candidate for the upcoming Beef + Lamb NZ Eastern North Island director election. 

Amid the devastation of the cyclone, Crawshaw did make a last-minute call on the East Coast Young Farmer of the Year regional final.

That call turned out to have a silver lining and was the much needed “morale boost”.

“At one stage it seemed all too hard. A few days after the cyclone I thought to pull the pin was the best option.

“Then two days before the final we made the call to get out of the mess we were dealing with, apply the mind and see some faces away from the battle and challenges on farm.

“It was the best call ever. For the mental health and general wellbeing it was the morale boost we needed.”

Arriving at the event was a “surreal feeling” for 29-year-old Crawshaw, who hadn’t been into town since the cyclone.

“Driving into town and seeing the damage made it tough to get into the right headspace, but I knew I needed to focus on the competition and set myself up as well as I could for the day ahead.”

The competition was a close match, with Crawshaw finishing on a score of 581.8 – less than a point ahead of last year’s winner, 31-year-old Mark Wallace on 581.5 – to take out the East Coast FMG Young Farmer of the Year.

Jack Scahill, 27, from Dannevirke Young Farmers secured the final spot on the podium with 486.5 points.

Crawshaw’s win earns him entry to the Grand Final in Timaru in July.  

The 2023 Grand Final will be his second attempt at the title of FMG Young Farmer of the Year. He competed back in 2018 and always knew he wanted to give it another shot. 

“With everything that’s happened back home, it’s all a bit hard to comprehend. We know it’s going to take years to repair the damage that the farm sustained in the cyclone, so I’m just enjoying the win for now.”

Leading into the Grand Final, Crawshaw has no expectations.

“I haven’t really had time to reflect on what’s ahead from here, but the battle of the farm repair to restore fences, culverts and floodgates so we can move stock is first and foremost right now.

“This Grand Final will be a whole different experience and not near so daunting as real life back home on the farm. 

“I am at a different stage of my career [than in 2018] and I see the networking opportunities a focus for me as I hope to use the platform to open some doors to further my interests in future farming.

“I have had a lot of opportunities from the farming industry and I want to give back on that front, particularly in the areas of innovation and governance.”

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