Pupils using their swedes

Two rural schools and the Otago Southland Rescue Helicopter Trust have received a major funding boost thanks to some enterprising farmers and growers.

The Central Otago Winter Feed Competition, held every two years, has raised $31,500 each for Omakau and Poolburn Schools, and the same amount for the Otago Southland Rescue Helicopter Trust.

Organising committee chairman Cameron Nicholson said more than 80 farmers and growers submitted their best crops to be auctioned off for the competition.

"It gets pretty competitive between the farmers. It’s about bragging rights," Mr Nicholson said.

"We get everything from beets, wheat, kale, swedes — the lot."

A special auction was held in May, but the final figures had only just been processed, Mr Nicholson said.

"There’s a lot of laughs and giggles. People love a good challenge," he said.

The overall winning crop — dryland kale — was grown by the Williamson family.

"If you were growing your own crop, it’s one you would love to see in your own paddock," Mr Nicholson said.

Perching on paramedic team leader Shayne Henry’s shoulders is Fletcher Rutherford, 6, proudly...
Perching on paramedic team leader Shayne Henry’s shoulders is Fletcher Rutherford, 6, proudly displaying two prize swedes and cheered on by fellow pupils from Poolburn School. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
Omakau School had about 75 pupils, and Poolburn about 50 pupils, he said.

"In terms of the current economic situation, it gives both schools a major shot in the arm," Mr Nicholson said.

"It means they don’t have to sell too many cheese rolls to cover costs."

In the past, Poolburn had used the money to help fund teaching resources, while the helicopter trust had used it to buy medical equipment such as defibrillators, he said.

"To give something back to the community is really pleasing.

"We had to stop the competition during Covid, so it’s been great to have it back."

Otago Southland Rescue Helicopter Trust managing director Graeme Gale said the funding received would go towards "high-end medical equipment [it] wouldn’t otherwise be able to purchase".

"It’s great for the community, and it’s great for the patients," Mr Gale said.