Rural support folk deserve our thanks

They say it takes a village to raise a child.

To that, I say it takes the same approach to raise a lamb. Or a calf. Or any agrarian offspring for that matter.

And that is where those in the rural support industries play such a crucial role; I’m looking at you vets, fertiliser reps, stock agents, agronomists, rural supplies reps, agricultural contractors, shearers and shedhands, truck drivers and the like.

Last year, the Otago Daily Times and Rural Life celebrated Year of the Farmer, a hugely successful initiative championing the work and community contributions of our farmers and growers.

It culminated in the naming of Duntroon dairy farmer Myfanwy Alexander as our inaugural Rural Champion, which was deserved acknowledgement for a remarkable woman.

This year we have a similar initiative which — as well as seeking nominations for farmers or growers who make their community a better place to live —will also highlight our heroes that work in rural support.

These are the behind-the-scenes folk critical to ensuring the smooth running of farming operations.

For me personally, the past six months have reinforced the importance of those in the rural services.

Having been suddenly immersed in my own farming enterprise, it has been to these folk I have turned as I find myself responsible for daily decision-making.

So this is a shout-out to those who have helped me, with courtesy and good-humour, as I have been coming to grips with some of the intricacies of agriculture.

To the agronomist who came up with an action plan to ensure stock have quality feed, the vet — who turned up with morning tea treats and compiled an animal health plan — and the stock agent who checks in regularly.

It’s the girls in the rural supplies store who manage to deduce what exact ‘‘doofer’’ is needed to fix a water trough — water infrastructure would have been more useful at school instead of French — and the shearing contractor who pops up with a spare machine when one decides not to play ball.

Then there are the farming friends who have been on the end of the phone — or, in desperation, a video call showing the extent of an over-flowing trough — to come to my aid.

You’re all my rural champions.

Farmers have so much to deal with daily which is largely out of their control — commodity cycles, weather, the regulatory environment — and, as much as farming requires being physically fit, it also requires mental fitness.

We are delighted to have mental health campaigner Sir John Kirwan join us for the official launch of Rural Champions at Wanaka A& P Show next month.

So get your thinking caps on and come up with your own Rural Champions.

And let’s celebrate the pick of the crop in 2024.

 - For a nomination form, visit


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